Demonstrated in the 1857 Performance of The Poor of New York
It is common for one to enjoy something which they are familiar with. The amount, by which a person participates in an activity, often depends on whether or not they know enough about it. In the December 8th 1857 production of The Poor of New York it is demonstrated that in order for a performance to be successful, it must be catered to its theater region’s existing culture. According to a New York Times article from 1857, the production is described as “a remarkable drama in many respects, and for powerful local interest has never been surpassed in this city” (NA). There are many factors of a play which are altered due to a change in performance location. Things such as translation of text from one language to another, rewriting dialogue, reinventing the plot, adding characters, and altering cultural elements to reflect life in a different city are all things that arise from a change in location.
The **** Club wrote The Poor of New York script for this production, based off of Les Pauvres des Paris in French, it was the reflection of life in France at the time. In order for The Poor of New York to be understood by a new audience, it needed to be translated into the native language of the new audience. In the New York Times article, the reporter was not completely clear of the origins of the original play, and states “the origin of the work may be traced to the French drama Les Pauvres de Paris” (NA). It is important to note that the reporter focuses their attention on the adapted version of the play rather than the original. This demonstrates that the original play was considered less important than the recreated one, since the adapted play was written in English. The revamped play was largely successful, in part, because the language it was performed in matched that of its audience in New York.
Location and culture are closely related. For that reason, in the original, Les Pauvres des Paris, the plot, settings and characters did not reflect the culture of New York. After the **** Club rewrote the script, a new story evolved, which reflected life in New York. The reporter writes “the fidelity of the pictures they present is recognised by the audience, which, in such matters, is worth more than individual endorsement or opinion can be” (NA). By altering the script, through rewriting the play, less of the French culture was seen, and predominantly New York culture was shown. Since the audience was, for the most part, from New York, it was easier for them to relate to a script that reflected their culture and lifestyles. Consequently, because of location, the script had to be altered to be considered relevant to the play’s New York audience. In the play’s review it is written that “The point wherein this drama excels most local dramas that have preceded it is to be found in the skill displayed in its construction” (NA). The original construction of the play, whose roots lead back to France, did not reflect what life was like in New York. Consequently, this demanded a total reconstruction of the play so that the plot and characters truly reflected the city in which this play was set to perform in: New York. In the end, this particular production of The Poor of New York was successful; attention to detail was put forward in order to mirror living in New York during that time.
The normative life patterns in one part of the world often vary completely from another. The events which were originally included in Les Pauvres des Paris would not have seemed relevant in a New York atmosphere. As a result, the plot needed to be altered, and new sections needed to be included to reflect what life was like in New York. The performance reviewer wrote “The merit of a drama of this kind is its entire grasp of the emotions of the moment” (NA). The way the writers chose to reconstruct the plot was aimed at reflecting life in New York closely. Since the new plot reflected life, in a way that the audience could recognise it, it was easy for them to engage in the performance. Hence, the play generated interest in those who enjoyed attending theatrical performances, “it is a remarkable drama in many respects, and for powerful local interest has never been surpassed in this city” (NA). This ultimately highlights the effect of this particular location on the play, a change in location often results in a changed script altogether.
Social norms, gender norms, as well as types of occupations will vary between places. If an audience cannot feel connected to the characters and plot of the play, they often lose motivation to attend performances. The economic situation in Paris, France, may have resembled that of New York in the United States. However, there were most likely differences between the two places which were evident through the characters of the original play. When the reporter explains their experience of the play, and their reasoning behind praising this performance, they write “the adaptors have added several new characters, changed the plot, invented at least one half of the play, and rewritten the dialogues so as to salt the individualities common in our midst” (NA). Members of the audience must have seen similarities between themselves and the characters of the play, and accordingly they must have felt a personal connection to the play. Recognising reflections of themselves on stage easily motivated more people to attend the second nights show. Through incorporation of new characters into the play, who reflected norms, values, gender roles, and economic status in New York, people enjoyed the play since it was pertinent to their personal lives. Consequently, since much attention was given to the accuracy of the play, it generated interest, making the play popular in the city, leading to the overall success of this production.
In many parts of the world, corruption hides in the streets. Specifically in New York, people often experienced dishonest businessmen whose aim it was to swindle them out of their money. In order for this production to reflect circumstances in New York, the actions, behaviours, and attitudes of the characters had to closely reflect that of the city. The play’s adaptors were apparently successful since, to the reporter, it seems unclear whether the message was added, or taken from the original play “It is not obvious that this real or apparent truthfulness can be taken from the French, and for this we are indebted to the **** Club” (NA). Furthermore, the article states “The performance Tuesday night was excellent. Every artist in the establishment has a part for which he or she has been measured, and although these parts are not by any means wordy, they tell on the audience” (NA). Since the recreation of the play so closely reflected life in the city, showcasing both the good and bad, it encouraged people to attend the performances. The New York inspired rewrite of the entire play was catered towards its audience. Thus, it was effortless for the audience to follow and connect to what was on stage, ensuring success.
Location plays a role in altering the language, plot, and characters of a play. Consequently, all of these changes must be coherently connected in such a way that the title reflects what is in store. The original play, titled Les Pauvres de Paris does not indicate that the recreated play was set in New York. Because location played a role in influencing the adapted version of the play, the title had to be changed to The Poor of New York. Something as small as changing the location used in the title, can influence the amount by which the play succeeds. Since in Paris, the original story reflected French life, it was successful in France. Since in New York the adapted version reflected American life, it was successful in the United States, “The local allusions were quickly taken, and well received” (NA). By incorporating certain elements that connected to the city, the audience was able to find things that they could relate to.
This performance seemed natural to the audience because it showcased parts of city life from New York. Moreover, it was easier to portray the characters convincingly since they were inspired by the types of people that lived in the city. It is important to consider the comments of the reporter “we are introduced too, to many new characters, mostly in humble life, and all more or less affected by the prevailing life” (NA). The reporter’s comments highlight that the characters projected qualities found in those from New York. The way these character’s projections were crafted, reflected their cultural roots in New York. Had the plot and characters reflected life in Paris rather than New York, one can figure that the New York audience of this play would not have been as easily inclined to see the play. In the end, this production would not have attained the same level of success without the alterations made, to reflect the production’s location.
Where the theater was situated played an essential role in the success of the 1857 production of The Poor of New York. The reporter who reviewed this play evidently enjoyed how much it reflected life in their city. The reporter explains “it is built on correct art principles, and moved with culminating interest from the prologue to the ending scene” (NA). However, one key element of the play remained unchanged: the tableaux. Although the majority of the play needed to be altered, the tableaux portions remained because it was seen as innovative. When the tableaux scenes were discussed in the news report it stated “The tableaux all come in at the right places, and are contrasted with a due regard to the momentary emotional capacity of the audience” (NA). Therefore, although the location played a key role in reconstructing the play, it made no difference in the set-up of tableaux in the play. Since certain theatrical elements are consistent regardless of the location, this production of The Poor of New York held on to the integrity of the original play, which proved to be a beneficial choice on the part of the production team. Therefore, this production was known to be a “complete success” (NA).
People often enjoy things which they can relate to. In theater, some plays need to be recreated in order to satisfy their target audience. The Tuesday, December 8th 1857 production of The Poor of New York was evidently recreated in order to please its New York audience. Several factors of the play were changed as result of a shifted location. According to a New York Times article from 1857, this particular production thrived, “the house on both occasions being crowded in its utmost capacity” (NA). Ultimately, one can see that the content of a play is largely dependent on the location of a play.
No Author. “The Poor of New York.” The New York Times 10 December 1857. Print. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/91396676?accountid=14771>.