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Title:Importing French Drama for the American Stage: Giraudoux, Anouilh, Sartre, and Genet
Author(s):Perrin, Robert Stuart
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Abstract:After World War II, French plays were frequently presented on the American stage, creating much of the interest and excitement of New York theatre seasons in the late forties, fifties and early sixties. As these products of the French theatre were imported, however, many changes were made in the texts in order for them to appeal to the American dramatic sensibility, which centered on emotional involvement (rather than French intellectual distance), reactions to American historical contexts (which were distinct from those of France), and love of action (rather than French love of language). Consequently, as adaptors and translators worked with the dramatic texts of Giraudoux, Anouilh, Sartre, and Genet, they often chose to modify the tone of the plays, the specific details and historical contexts, and the patterns of the language.
Giraudoux's La Folle de Chaillot was brought to American stage in an adaptation by Maurice Valency (The Madwoman of Chaillot), a text in which Giraudoux's elaborate speeches were compressed and abstracted, in which American details were substituted for French ones, and in which Giraudoux's ironic tone was sentimentalized. Intermezzo, also adapted by Valency (The Enchanted), was presented in a text with similar modifications. La Guerre de Troie n'aura pas lieu was introduced in what was called an adaptation by Christopher Fry (Tiger at the Gates), although Fry's text was remarkably true to the language and tone of the original play.
Anouilh's Antigone was introduced in a translation by Lewis Galantiere (Antigone), which was in some cases true to Anouilh's language but which lengthened some speeches and modified most of the characterizations. L'Invitation au chateau appeared in a free adaptation by Christopher Fry (Ring Round the Moon), in which the play was restructured, many speeches omitted, many details modified, and several characterizations altered. La Valse des toreadors, in a translation by Lucienne Hill (The Waltz of the Toreadors), was presented with its long speeches systematically reduced, its profanity modified, and its details Americanized.
Sartre's Huis clos was first presented in a free adaptation by Paul Bowles (No Exit), in which characterizations were modified and details drastically altered, although long speeches were frequently translated with care. Huis clos was carefully translated some years later by Stuart Gilbert (No Exit), producing a text which contained only slight changes to make French details clear. Les Mouches appeared in a highly accurate translation by Gilbert (The Flies), in which the language and details were only slightly modified.
Genet's Les Bonnes first appeared in what was called a translation by Bernard Frechtman (The Maids), although structure, characterizations, and language were drastically altered. Le Balcon was also prepared by Frechtman (The Balcony), although that translation was true to Genet's structure, characterizations, language, and tone. Les Negres, also presented in an accurate translation by Frechtman (The Blacks), appeared with Genet's text generally unaltered.
The process by which these plays were altered and the extent to which adaptors and translators felt compelled to change the texts suggested that in the late forties and early fifties much had to be done to make the manner of French dramatic presentation suitable for the American stage. After Americans became used to French dramatic style, however, fewer changes were made in dramatic texts.
As a study of the process of importation, this discussion rests on detailed comparisons of the original French plays and their American adaptations or translations, with secondary emphasis on the critical reception which the plays received.
Issue Date:1981
Description:311 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8127667
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-12
Date Deposited:1981

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