I went to see a short interview of one of my favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard, earlier this week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to his epic trilogy The Coast of Utopia, Stoppard has had a long and varied career spanning different media (plays, television, films, adaptations) and a far more diverse range of ideas.
The interview itself was rather unremarkable, mostly due to the moderator. David Remnick is a great writer and reporter, and I’ve often enjoyed his work in The New Yorker, where he is executive editor, but his rambling, dull and academic interview was stifling. Stoppard himself was delightful, especially when talking about translating Checkhov (his new translation/adaptation of The Cherry Orchard debuts in January). Checkhov is such a lover of humanity and potent dramatist of the human condition, and who better than Stoppard to bring Checkhov’s legendary wit and elusive humor through to us in English. He also mentioned in a curious aside that the American read on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky is very far removed from the Russian sensibility—Russians apparently find these two dour literary titans hilarious; their works are inherently comic.
I wished for more: more on his process, more on his ideas about theatre and where it’s headed, more on his unique perspective of the American theatre (apparently, we’re much more obsessed with the “success” of things here, both financially and critically, than they are in London and the West End). I suppose that’s the dramatist’s greatest trick, though: always leave them wanting more.