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  • Lycoming College recently produced our Antigone .
  • Penn State University recently selected our Mistress of the Inn for coursework.
  • Simon Fraser University also selected Mistress of the Inn as an assigned text.
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    The Paralinear Oresteia:
    A Gateway to the Ancient Greek Text

    The Greek text by Aeschylus
    with parallel English text and commentary by Robert Bethune

    This is a tool for readers who have
    a working knowledge of ancient Greek
    to read Aeschylus for pleasure.

    Available as a printed book on Amazon.com.

    Translations and adaptations for the stage

    What a world of great theater there is in plays that aren't in English! Comedy, tragedy, mystery, romance, all from that wonderfully interesting and slightly unfamiliar viewpoint you get when you take the plunge and go off on adventures into another culture and language.

    Each of these plays is a tried-and-true tested performer, both in the original version--some of which have held the stage for centuries--and in my translation or adaptation, which have all been successfully produced. You will not find yourself in a script-development process with these works. They are finished products, ready for you to produce in your theater.

    Each of the listings below gives some basic information about the play and the translation or adaptation I've done of it, and leads you to a page devoted to that work, where you will find sample scenes, sample script pages, information about the play and the playwright, sample video clips from prior productions of my work, and photographs from prior productions.

    Some of these are translations; others are adaptations. When I say "translation" I mean a work in which I have followed the original play line-for-line. When I say "adaptation" I mean a work in which I have been more loosely faithful to the original, in some cases making changes to the original play structure or adding additional material. In each case, I've laid out exactly what I did and how I did it, so that you will know just what you're getting.

    In all cases, my goal is to bring to an American audience a text that vividly and theatrically re-creates the original play in a form that can be appreciated and enjoyed without knowing the original language. I strictly avoid all forms of "translationese," that awkward, peculiar, stilted and scholarly language that passes for English in so many efforts at translation. An audience listening to these texts will not be distracted by any such language barriers; they will be able to enjoy the play the way the playwright wanted them to.

    All of these texts are available for public performance upon payment of royalty. Each of the detail pages has a link you may use to generate a request for a perusal script and a royalty quotation. All of these texts, pictures and videos are protected by copyright and have been registered with the US Copyright Office.

    Please browse and enjoy! I will be happy to respond to any questions you may have about any of these texts.

    Robert W. Bethune

    The Antigone of Sophocles

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    Sophocles' play is immortal. There is simply no other way to describe it. From the day it was first seen on a stage in the 5th century BC to today, the story it tells of a fatal conflict between law and conscience is always moving and profound. Another element of its timeless appeal lies in how it continues the saga of Oedipus, enacting part of what happened after Oedipus died, but the curse on his family lived on.

    My adaptation allows an audience that may not know Greek mythology to experience and respond to the profound emotional experience enacted in the play. The text is in prose for dialogue and verse for the choral passages. Where I use verse, it does not attempt to follow or reproduce classical meters; it is strongly musical and rhythmic, intended to facilitate genuine choral speaking. The text is clear and natural, echoing the straighttforward simplicity typical of the Greek of Sophocles and of Greek literature generally.

    The play involves eight named characters. Three are women: Antigone herself, daughter of Oedipus; her sister Ismene, and their aunt Eurydice. The five men are Kreon, brother of Jocasta, wife and mother of Oedipus; Haimon, Creon's son, engaged to marry Antigone; Tiresias, a priest and reader of omens; a soldier, one of Kreon's men, and a messenger, another of Creon's men. There is a chorus, which may be of any size and composition, representing people of the city of Thebes. Locale is never actually specified; the action implies two locations, one for the first scene, the other for the rest of the play. The playing time for this script is approximately 75 minutes.

    Further information

    Dracula, by Bram Stoker

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    An ancient archetype of incarnate evil, the myth of the vampire will not die. This is a story of how a small, courageous, determined and resourceful group of men and women discover, confront and kill a creature whose very existence is a terror to both body and soul--and yet a creature who has a life, a will, a mind, and even a soul of his own.

    This adaptation, by Robert Bethune and Philip Hilden, follows the path laid down by Bram Stoker in 1894 in his unrivalled telling of the myth of the vampire--Dracula. Over the decades since, theater, film and television have ducked, dodged and evaded the central horror of this story. This version does not. Drawing directly on the beautifully executed structure of Stoker's story and incorporating much of his language, it brings the full tale of the vampire, in all its terror and dark allure, to the stage in a compact, fast-moving, yet comprehensive theatrical work.

    This is not a small script, but the challenges of production are commesurate with the rewards. There are 31 named characters, 8 women, 23 men. Extensive doubling is possible; it can be played easily by a cast of 15. There are many locales; the script moves between them in a fluid, Elizabethan manner of staging. The script is explicitly set in the period Stoker used--the last years of the 19th century. The playing time for the script is approximately 135 minutes, not including two intermissions.

    Further information

    The Game of Love and Chance, by Pierre Carlet de Chamblain de Marivaux

    Available on DVD.
    Available as a printed book.
    Also available on DVD as part of our collection, Sex in the Age of Reason.

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    Marivaux's play is as little-known in the United States as it is well-known in its native France, where only Moliere has been produced more often in the home they shared, the Comedie-Francaise. It is a delightful play on many levels, first with its cleverly constructed plot of intrigue, disguises and mistaken identities; then at a human level, with its gentle, but perceptive characterizations and human interplay, and last but not least, with the seriousness that underlies all good comedy, its clear-sighted, yet romantic view of how a young woman takes her fate in her own hands and finds love by playing the cards she is dealt.

    This text is strictly a translation. I follow Marivaux's text speech for speech and as nearly as possible phrase for phrase. Marivaux's language is so famous for its light and witty elegance that the French even have a word for it: marivaudage, which can be either a tribute to literary skill or an accusation of frivolity as the bias of the speaker requires. My translation follows Marivaux into a world of langage where the truth need not bludgeon you to set you free; it is perfectly capable of doing so with a gentle touch and a quietly beckoning finger. The text is clear and simple, but captures the playful motion of Marivaux's rhythms without calling attention to itself.

    The play is extraordinarily easy to produce. There are just six characters, all of which are important to the play. Sylvia is a young woman concerned about whether and whom to marry; Lisette is her happy-go-lucky maid who has no doubts whatever on the subject; Orgon is her father, who has a marriage in mind for her with Dorante, the son of a friend, and very much enjoys a good scheme; Dorante's manservant is Arlequin, who winds up with Lisette when he thought he would get Sylvia, and Mario is Sylvia's brother, who wants her to be happy, but is more than willing to make it difficult for her if he can get a laugh out of it. The young women switch identities, and so do the young men, and though Sylvia succeeds in her intention of putting Dorante to a test, she finds that she herself is tested as well--as do they all, in one way or another. Playing time is approximately 110 minutes. It is the only play I have ever worked with that neither specifies nor implicitly requires anything at all for set or costume; it requires exactly one prop--a letter. The social relationships and interactions do strongly suggest that it be set in it's own time, the middle 18th century.

    Further information

    Minna von Barnhelm, by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

    Available on DVD.
    Available as a printed book.
    Also available on DVD as part of our collection, Sex in the Age of Reason.

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    This play is another treasure well-known back home and unknown here. Since it was first performed in the mid-18th century, Minna has been a German ideal of what a woman should be: beautiful, determined, clever, loving and proud, ready to take on the world for her lover and ready to give him his marching orders any time he needs it. It is the time just after the Seven Year's War; Minna, from the Austrian side of that war, is in love with Major von Tellheim, from the Prussian side. He is a man sadly beset by the requirements of honor, desperately convinced that it requires him to give up his Minna. She has no patience with the inhumanity of Prussian honor and determines to teach her man a lesson. As so often happens to those to try that manuever, she winds up learning a lesson herself. Around this couple there is a pleasant and varied group of characters through which Lessing gives us a classic portrait of the interplay of Central European personalities at a transitional time in modern history.

    This text is strictly a translation. I have followed Lessing's language speech for speech, remaining true to his thoughts and ideas while gently toning down his style. It is not hard to see past Lessing's style to his successful portrayals of people of deep feeling; I have tried to capture the feeling and texture of the German while moderating his tendency to be a bit inflated for the modern ear. The play is long by modern standards; Lessing's audience liked a play that gave them a good, solid three hours in the theater, but we don't, so I have provided two versions: a full text for the directors who want to do their own cutting and an acting edition that clearly marks where suitable cuts can be made. The playing time of the cut version is about 150 minutes including two intermissions. In both versions, I have taken the liberty of slightly changing the text in two scenes so as to eliminate unnecessary walk-on characters.

    The play includes nine named roles; six men and three women. All are good roles. Minna and Tellheim are the leads; Tellheim's servant Just, his sergeant Paul Werner, the Innkeeper, Minna's uncle Count von Bruchsall, and Riccaut de la Marliniere, a dissolute French officer, fill out the men. Minna's maid Franziska and Frau Marloff, the widow of one of Tellheim's officers, are the remaining women. Bruchsall and Riccaut can be doubled. The play can be done in three locales--Minna's rooms at the inn, the public room of the inn, and the street outside the inn. A fair amount of props and furniture are required.

    Further information

    Miss Julie and The Stronger, by August Strindberg

    Available on DVD.
    Available as a printed book.

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    The human soul, tortured by fears and desires that conflict both with themselves and with each other, and which the soul cannot resolve--that is Strindberg's metier, the locale in which he is absolutely unrivalled as a playwright and poet of all that is dark in the human being. In Miss Julie, he brilliantly concentrated his dark vision into a microcosmic sexual encounter between a young woman of minor nobility and a young man who is a servant of the family. His need to rise, and yet to bow, colllides with her need to fall, and yet to command, in the heady atmosphere of Swedish Midsummer Eve, an encounter that leads with cunning inevitablity to her death.

    This text is an adaptation, not a translation. Indeed, it is the most radical of the adaptations presented here. I believe that treating this play as Strindberg conceived it, as an exemplar of naturalism conceived as a mechanical reproduction of superficial reality, does his own work a profound disservice. Naturalism is not the cutting-edge esthetic as it was in his time; it is the esthetic the theater must now outgrow and abandon. It is the profoundly emotional, psychologically surreal inner world of Jean and Julie and Kristin that makes this play the unforgettable work that it is. I have therefore eliminated or written around essentially all of the naturalistic mechanics of the play to concentrate entirely on the emotional realities, and I have done something that Strindberg would have done if he dared: The logic of Strindberg's action demands that we follow Jean and Julie into the bedroom, and explore what happens between them there. In 19th-century Sweden, he could not do that. In 21-st century America, we can. In a scene of my own composition, that is what I have done. That being said, I have also taken great care with the Swedish text. Except as necessary to carry out the goals of the adaptation, I have rendered Strindberg's text faithfully speech for speech and wherever possible phrase for phrase.

    Miss Julie offers three excellent roles, two for women (Julie and Kristen) and one for a man (Jean.) In order to fill out the evening, and provide a small tour-de-force for the actors, I also provide a translation of Strindberg's short play for two women, The Stronger. It includes the delightful and intriguing idea of one woman who speaks constantly, versus another who never says a word. It works out very well to cast the woman who plays Kristen in Julie as the woman who speaks, and the actress who has so much to say as Julie as the woman who is silent. The actor who plays Jean plays the waiter--another silent character.

    Miss Julie moves from a public room in the servant's quarters to Jean's bedroom and back again. The Stronger takes place at a table in a cafe. Only a few pieces of furniture are required, and a few readily obtainable props. The nature of the social interactions involved strongly suggests setting the plays in their original era, the late 19th century.

    Further information

    The Mistress of the Inn, by Carlo Goldoni

    Available on DVD.
    Available as a printed book.
    Also available on DVD as part of our collection, Sex in the Age of Reason.

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    My translation of Goldoni's play is the third in the set of three plays (The Game of Love and Chance and Minna von Barnhelm are the other two) that are drawn from a little-known genre: the romantic comedy of the age of reason. In this play, as in the other two, a young woman tries to teach a man a lesson; in this play, as in the other two, she learns a sharp lesson herself. The difference is that in this play, the physical disguisings and social intrigues of the other two plays are played out in a woman's own heart: she pretends to be in love in order to make a man fall in love with her, and does so knowing full well that she has no intention of returning his love. However, when she shows this false face to him, she shows it to the rest of the world as well, and it is only the ability of the man who does love her to see through her emotional disguising that enables her to come out of her intrigue with a whole heart, and indeed with a whole skin.

    This text is a translation. Indeed, it is one of the few English texts drawn from Goldoni's play that can actually claim that title. For some reason, this play has been more or less butchered by most of those who have rendered it into English. The worst case of all is the version by Lady Gregory, which eliminates and rearranges whole scenes in a futile outrage of playdoctoring designed soley to eliminate two characters -- those two delightful courtesans -- that she considered unecessary. Other versions adapt the play to whatever axes were to be ground by those who did the work, ignoring and replacing Goldoni's text with their own. I have very carefully worked through the Italian, speech by speech and phrase by phrase, to capture the bouyancy and clarity of Goldoni's text into colloquial, transparent English. Goldoni's professional skill as a playwright is never more evident than here; working on this text was a clinic, a master class, in play structure, characterization and dialogue. I hope I have been a good pupil.

    The play requires five men and three women. All are good parts; the servant, though a smaller role, has good laugh lines. I have eliminated nonspeaking walk-on servants. The three women are Mirandolina, the mistress of the inn, and two actresses, Ortensia and Dejanira, who are part of the intrigue run by the Count. The men are the Marchese (Marquis) of Forlipopopoli, an elegant and impoverished nobleman; the Conte (Count) of Albafafioritita, a rather crude but wealthy nobleman; the Cavaliere (Baron) of Ripafratatta, a gentleman and a misogynist, a manservant to the Cavaliere, and Fabrizio, Fabrizio, a man who helps Mirandolina run the inn.

    The play takes place in various rooms in the inn. Nothing in the play requires that those locales be presented in any detail; changes of furniture on a bare stage suffice. There are a fair number of ordinary props involved. Food props are required, both food and wine are important in certain scenes. There are scenes which can involve stage combat with swords; those scenes can be staged equally well without any actual combat. Running time, with intermission, is about 110 minutes.

    The Mistress of the Inn has been used as a college-level text in Italian literature courses at Penn State University, University of Waterloo, and Simon Fraser University.

    Further information

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    All text and images on this page are copyright 1994-2007 Robert Bethune.