The Threshold Theater Company is dedicated to presenting worthy international drama unfamiliar to American audiences and readers. The company’s mission inspired its name, Threshold: the boundary over which the company carries excellent plays from the obscurity of foreign tongues into the English-language light of day. Threshold commissions or seeks out stage-worthy translations of these plays, stages them, and offers them for publication.
In keeping with its mission, the Threshold Theater Company to date has produced plays translated from Catalan, Danish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Yiddish.
Michael Etheridge and Kate Hampton in Greedy Eve (1946) by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
The Threshold Theater Company was founded in New York in 1979. Its first production was the English-language premiere of a contemporary Hungarian play by András Sütő. Among the company’s outstanding productions in the 1980s was The Cost of Living by the modern French playwright Yves Jamiaque, featuring a gripping performance by Robert Lansing. Another was Threshold’s English-language premiere of Denis Diderot’s 1781 comic masterpiece Wicked Philanthropy, which enjoyed such success Off-Off Broadway that it re-opened for an Off Broadway run. A high point of the 1990s was Threshold’s acclaimed New York production of Géza Páskándi’s No Conductor, which the Hungarian National Theater invited to Hungary, giving rise to a unique event: an American cast performing a modern Hungarian play in English on one of Budapest’s major stages.
The Caught in the Act festival of modern international one-act plays is the Threshold Theater Company’s most memorable acheivement to date. Launched in 1996 and running for four seasons, Caught in the Act turned the main stage of the HERE Arts Center in the Soho district of New York City into a unique and multifaceted mirror of modern culture as reflected in the 20th century’s one-act plays. Each season, the festival presented 12 to 16 works divided into three programs of rotating repertory. Many of these plays represent seminal artistic movements of the century, such as Futurism, Dada, Expressionism, Symbolism, Theater of the Absurd, etc. The authors range from such well-known playwrights as Schnitzler and de Ghelderode, to the unfamiliar. Their plays were brought to life by numerous renowned theater artists, including Jacqueline Brookes, Michael Countryman, Daniel Gerroll, Kim Hunter, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Paul Lazar, Tom Mardirosian, Annie-B Parson, John Rothman, Michael Rupert, Victor Slezak, and Frank Wood, to name but a few of the over one hundred actors and directors who contributed their talents to the Caught in the Act festival, for which the Threshold Theater Company received Off Broadway’s highest distinction, an OBIE Award, in 1998.
In addition to full productions, Threshold has mounted numerous elaborately staged readings over the years, most of them in collaboration with colleges and universities. They include works by Tibor Déry (Hungarian), Cosmas Koronéos (French), H. Leivick (Yiddish), Tadeus Miciński (Polish), Manuel de Pedrolo (Catalan), Luigi Pirandello (Italian), Evgeny Shvarts (Russian), and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish), among many others. The casts of these staged readings have included such distinguished American actors as Gabriel Barre, Kevin Chamberlin, John Michael Higgins, and John Christopher Jones.
Betsy Mohler, Sam Riddle, Warren Kelley, and Richard Pruitt in Wicked Philanthropy (Est-il bon? Est-il méchant?) (1781) by Denis Diderot. Photo by E. Joseph.
Some of this country’s finest translators have worked with the Threshold Theater Company, including Daniel Gerould, Imre Goldstein, George Wellwarth, and Sophie Wilkins. Most of Threshold’s commissions, 36 translations so far, have been published in anthologies and drama journals.
Pamela Billig has directed for numerous theater companies in New York City and beyond: her work has been seen at La Mama, 42nd Street Theatre Row, Actors’ Playhouse, and the Long Wharf Theater, as well as in Toledo, Avignon and Budapest. Her directorial palette encompasses works by playwrights as diverse as Diderot, Oscar Wilde, Lanford Wilson, and Maruxa Vilalta. For the Threshold Theater Company, Ms. Billig currently serves as Producer and Artistic Co-director; she has organized readings and lecture series, and directed productions, workshops and tours; she has been commissioning drama translations for many years, and works closely with translators and publishers. In previous years, she served as Director of the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) and Company Manager of the Harold Clurman Theater on New York’s Theatre Row.
Eugene Brogyányi has translated the works of contemporary Hungarian playwrights, as well as modern classics by Ferenc Molnár and Arthur Schnitzler. Many of these translations have been performed in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, and have appeared in journals and drama anthologies. He is the editor of DramaContemporary: Hungary (PAJ Publications, New York). His scholarly work includes contributions to the Cambridge Guide to Theatre and the Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama. Mr. Brogyányi is the recipient of an award from Columbia University’s Translation Center, among other honors. He has served as the Threshold Theater Company’s dramaturg and Literary Manager.
The Threshold Theater Company is incorporated in the State of New York as a not-for-profit corporation, with federal tax exemption under Section 501(c)3. The company is governed by a Board of Directors and administered by Artistic Co-Directors and an Administrative Director.