“What would you have me do?” – C. de Bergerac, to Le Bret

Yesterday, I finished a pass through the script of Burgess’s translation of CYRANO DE BERGERAC. I’m collaborating, for the second year in a row, with my friend J, the drama teacher at Q School, to help prepare her fall production for her high school students. Last year we worked on LYSISTRATA. This year, it’s Rostand’s CYRANO, which is one of my favorite plays.

J had already done one pass of cuts, so I was working on a script that had already been heavily edited and still needed to lose 35 pages. (It’s a very long play.) I challenged myself to find something that could be cut in every single page of the script.

I did it, with two exceptions: the second to last pages of Acts 3 and 4. This makes sense, if you think about it: those are pages on which a lot of plot elements are being tied up into one big laundry bag full of cliffhangers. You need all the information.

Otherwise, Rostand is such a poet that there was lots that could be sliced. Identifying the cuttable portions was not a problem, but reconciling myself to doing it was. The language is so gorgeous. It was particularly heartbreaking to shorten any of the love scenes with Roxane. But what’s done is done. Now J has to retype the entire thing into a new document, since so much has been cut that the script pages are illegible.

I wonder if J’s students, like the actors on every professional production of a translated / edited play I’ve ever worked on, will come in with the original text in hand, arguing for the reinstatement of their lines.

I amused myself at one point by wondering whether Cyrano, if presented with this task, would have been able to bring himself to eviscerate his own poetry.