foreign plays adapted to the American Stage


foreign plays adapted to the American Stage
   Most historical melodramas in the standard repertory of touring companies in the 1880s were of foreign origin. This included plays like the English Lady of Lyons by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the German Ingomar the Barbarian by Bellinghausen, the French Count of Monte Cristo by Charles Fechter from Dumas père, and Lady of the Camelias (Camille) by Alexandre Dumas fils. Translations were often uncredited, and stars freely adapted plot and dialogue to suit their own needs. While Shakespeare was somewhat immune to excessive adaptation because players often performed the same roles with different companies, there were endless parodistic variations on his plays. The adapting, translating, and production of foreign plays on American stages became a center of some controversy in the late 19th century as the realistic social problem plays of Henrik Ibsen were first presented and often met with considerable controversy. This was similarly true of George Bernard Shaw's early plays in the Ibsen formula, but most foreign plays were met with respectful, often enthusiastic response.
   The Irish-born Dion Boucicault, a prolific playwright and manager, drew from many uncredited French and English sources for the numerous plays that flowed from his pen, and others emulated the practice. Even after the United States joined the International Copyright Agreement in 1891, it could be difficult to trace the origin of a foreign play whose title and character names had been changed and the action Americanized. Thus as late as the 1920s there were many light comedies on Broadway, ostensibly by American authors, that had originated in Hungary and other countries. However, the Theatre Guild set a standard of presenting good translations of important European plays like The Bonds of Interest from the Spanish of Jacinto Benavente in 1919, Liliom from the Hungarian of Ferenc Molnar in 1921, R.U.R. from the Czech of Karel Capek in 1922, and others.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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