Tuesday, May 20, 2003

To: Alexander Kozak, directer of the Brest theatre

Dear Sir,
I am sorry if there was a delay for you in getting this letter. I am in Poland in this moment, a place I do not like to be in, and I have been doing some necessary work with a time limitation, and I have been quite involved. I got notes from my Tatyana telling me of your conversations together regarding Pod Kablukom. And I am glad that your theatre has shown some interest.
I was told that you had some questions about what sort of play schedule I had hoped for from this play and some questions regarding the language of the play. I will try here to say something about these things, and I hope that we can meet face to face sometime soon. It is my hope to return to Belarus as quickly as I can, and that this time will only be a week or so more.
It was my hope, as with any of the plays that I have written that the play itself would have what we say is a "life". That is to say the amount of time that the audience would have an interest in it. When I wrote Pod Kablukom, I had in mind a Belarussian audience and it was my hope to produce the play there first. There is an English language edition, but i have always felt that the "Russian Version" was in fact the definitive text, and the one I most wanted to make. However, I do have hope that the play would be accepted outside of Belarus and my thinking is that when the play does live in Belarus, this will help it to exist elsewhere is well.
I don't think that I wrote the play as a political piece specifically; I believe it was intended more as an emotional, popular piece of drama. You might find it amusing to know that westerners see this play quite differently then those in Belarus. The Belarussians, as I had intended see the play from the [perspective of the family, with the issue of whether "to go or not to go" being the energy that drives the situation. westerners though see the play, as they would as an opportunity for winners and losers. and to their mind, Robert is simply the person with more common sense, and the poverty and familial and cultural destruction that would be know to Belarussians is simply not known to them. I do believe that a professional troupe could bring this aspect out in the play, but in a version without language barriers where the audience could in fact understand all (as only a percentage of English speakers in a Belarussian audience would-and even they would have problems with the "American English") it is difficult to feel the distance and the problems with "wanting to play, but being unable to", as quoted by Brat.
Now in addressing the language of Pod Kablukom I wish to say this. The translation was not made on a computer, it was done with the help of three Belarussian friends, and there was further editing done by two others. The actual text was derived by me through time spent in Belarus, and through interviews with friends while I was there, and the actual draft was written with the help of Tatyana who was there to help edit-can I say this? Would he say this? - As I was typing an English text. That text was absolutely intended for Russian translation as it was written and was put together as such. I6t was quit a lot of work and made difficult by outside influences that made it all harder.
But, the language itself (though I still see a few "typos") is grammatical Russian, but where you might find some division between "normal spoken Russian" and Pod Kablukom comes from the fact that it is the order of the sentences and the thought process is American. And I am not sorry for this. In comments from friends who have read it, I only read that there are certain things that they would not say in such a way. But I also find that the language becomes accessible the more that one listens, and that the action of the play is suitable for the language that is used.
But also that I should point out that we play Shakespeare in the states as you play Chekhov or Pushkin. And though these men write flawless Russian, it is archaic and uses older and not modern usage or syntax. I am currently re-reading Earnest Hemingway, and the English in that book is nothing like what we use today, nor are the cultural references. But we also perform Philip K. Dick, Tennessee Williams and John Stienbeck as well, all writers from bygone eras, and their "language" is always off, but simply heard as "theatre language". And of course, all language spoken is a dramatical context, is theatre language and therefore by definition: Not normal. So it is my hope that Pod Kablukom be allowed to live as it was written, and to simply allow for the language to be what it is: Grammatically correct Russian written by an American with the help of his friends, just as the title page indicates.
So, I would like to talk to you all, and to find out what issues we all have and what possibilities there are. My biggest problem, and i am trying to solve it is that I am trying to stay in Belarus (I live with Tatyana in Pinsk) but that we are not married and the bureaucracy of Belarus make this painfully difficult. I would like to have a work visa for Belarus that would make many things possible, and I am also working on a book at the moment that I would like to complete while living in Belarus.
So this is the best I can offer. I hope my English is not too difficult to understand for you. I do speak some Russian, though I am not very good yet. I practice every day, but could be much better. So please write me back so that we can open a conversation together, and i hope that we can make a relationship that will be beneficial to all. Pod Kablukom was written for a Belarussian audience, I would love to see such the life that it could have there.
Yours sincerely,
Adam Goodman