An unpublished play whose mostly handwritten script was discovered in Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Libraries (MARBL) will be performed for the first time next month in London.
Adapted and translated from a French play by Georges Schehadé, The Story of Vasco
was originally written by Ted Hughes as a libretto for one of Gordon Crosse’s operas.
The script, written in the 1960s, has been in Hughes’ archives since before
his death in 1998. Although the script was never intended to be staged, British director Adam Barnard will bring the script to life on stage for the first time.
Although the play is nearing its debut, Barnard faced obstacles collecting
the play and putting it together. According to BBC News, the director found evidence in the British Library that Crosse’s 1974 opera was based on a prose translation by Hughes.
But when Barnard contacted Crosse, he said he had discarded the play.
MARBL Interim Director Naomi Nelson said that the Hughes collection was acquired in 1997, and that the documents were made open to the public in 2000. Barnard reached out to MARBL for the full text of the play.
“It was 256 pages — masses of it handwritten and several typed drafts. They had endless boxes of folders of miscellaneous gubbins, and amongst all that there were two folders marked ‘Vasco,’” Barnard told the British Times
. “I realized I was looking at material I had not seen before.”
According to the Guardian
, Barnard put the play together from notes that remained “unremarked in a couple of folders.” Nelson said that the text was mailed over in photocopies.
She said that some of the works may have been out of order due to use, but that MARBL did its best to put the work together.
"Frequently we have drafts of things that are in no particular order in the folder,” Nelson said. “We do what we can to put it in logical order in the folders. Hughes had illegible handwriting, and we had many fragments of works.”
Nelson said that organizing the Hughes collection, which consists of about 180 boxes of documents, took two years. She said that MARBL organizes these papers, as well as all other papers, by type of document.
Within those classifications, she said, the papers are then organized either
chronologically or by title, whichever is most logical.
According to Nelson, Vasco was recognized as a play, classified under
the Scripts and Libretto section and further identified by name.
The play follows the story of Vasco, a naïve barber who goes on a wartime mission that has killed even the most skilled of heroes. It is his ignorance of his own heroic abilities and the danger he faces that gives him a chance to survive.
Kevin Young, curator of literary collections at MARBL, wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel
that the play’s production is something to celebrate.
“Anything new by the wonderful Ted Hughes is worth relishing,” Young wrote. “It’s a real treat and a reminder of just how important archives are to a writer’s legacy, and how lucky we are to have such strong holdings at Emory, including Hughes’s papers.”
— Contact Alice Chen.