Here in the U.S., one of the biggest literary makeovers of the last few years was the "discovery" and reassessment of a forgotten play by Mark Twain: Is He Dead? Twain shopped his loose, baggy comedy around in London and New York, with no takers. Now, more than a century later, after the script gathered dust in a California archive, it has been edited, tightened, joke-injected and given a $2.4 million-dollar production on Broadway. The rewriter is David Ives. The producer behind it all: Bob Boyett (who has also brought over The Seafarer and Rock 'n' Roll.
ALSO: In the final edit of the piece, we had to lose a nifty quote I snagged from lit-crit colossus Harold Bloom. I include it below for your brief enjoyment:
The road to theater fame is littered with the trampled dreams of novelists. For every Samuel Beckett—catching laurels for his work on the page and the stage—a dozen more tried and failed, usually miserably. In 1895, Henry James was notoriously jeered from the stalls as he took his triumphal bow for the stillborn Guy Domville; for most of his career Charles Dickens vainly supplicated the theater gods; and Victor Hugo is better known for inspiring the megamusical Les Misérables than his contributions to French drama. Don DeLillo and Gore Vidal have merely dabbled in playwriting.
No one quite knows why good novelists don’t make good dramatists. “I have brooded on this for years,” writes eminent literary critic Harold Bloom via e-mail. “It fascinates me that [Eugene] O'Neill and [Arthur] Miller write so badly. They could never have been novelists. But James, Dickens and Joyce were simply too eloquent and abundant in language for the stage. It may be that after Shakespeare the link between theater and language begins to fray.”