Ann Dunnigan

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Ann Dunnigan
Born 1909/1910
Hollywood, California[1]
Died 5 September 1997[1]
Manhattan, New York[1]
Occupation Actress, teacher, translator
Known for Stage acting; translations of Russian literature

Ann Dunnigan was an American actress and teacher who later became a translator of 19th-century Russian literature.[1]

Early stage performances[edit]

Born in Los Angeles County, Dunnigan spent most of her early life in San Francisco until she left California to attend Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.[1] She then moved to New York, where she performed in two Broadway plays and a number of Off-Broadway productions.[2]

In 1934 she played the role of Suzanne Barres in the premier of Hatcher Hughes' three-act comedy The Lord Blesses the Bishop. The production ran from late November to December at the Adelphi Theatre in Manhattan.[3][4] At the Fulton Theatre in 1938 she played Jessie Travis in Cheryl Crawford's production of All the Living, a drama that Hardie Albright adapted from Victor Small's 1935 novel, I Knew 3,000 Lunatics.[5]

Translation career and later years[edit]

After a stint as a speech teacher, her interest in the work of Anton Chekhov led her to study the Russian language.[1] She eventually translated 26 of Chekhov's short stories and novellas, which New American Library anthologized as Anton Chekhov: Selected Stories (1960) and Ward Six and Other Stories (1965), respectively. Chekhov: The Major Plays (New American Library, 1964) compiles Dunnigan's translations of five of Chekhov's four-act plays: Ivanov, The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, and The Cherry Orchard; each of these translations has been performed onstage.

Dunnigan went on to translate Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Ilya Tolstoy in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Her translations have served as the basis for numerous scholars' comments and analyses of Russian literature. Tennessee Williams regarded her rendering of The Seagull to be the best available in English,[6] and made it the principal reference for his 1981 adaptation, The Notebook of Trigorin.[7]

Dunnigan's rendering of War and Peace (New American Library, 1968) was the first American English edition of the novel.[8] When WBAI in New York broadcast a live, centennial reading of the translation in 1970,[9] Dunnigan herself joined the performance.

1972 saw the publication of two new editions: Tolstoy's Fables and Fairy Tales (New American Library) and Dostoyevsky's Netochka Nezvanova (Prentice Hall).

In 1976, the New York Shakespeare Festival commissioned Jean-Claude van Itallie to retranslate The Cherry Orchard into English. He provided them with a rendering, and the performance premiered at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1977.[10] The New York Post, The New York Times,[11] and The Village Voice praised the adaptation and the production alike; but Dunnigan contested that van Itallie's translation was nearly identical to hers, and sued him. In the settlement that followed, van Itallie accepted responsibility for the legal costs, and agreed to cease promotion of his version.[1][12] Years later, van Itallie applied himself to new renderings of The Cherry Orchard, The Seagull, Three Sisters, and Uncle Vanya. In the introduction to Applause Books' 1995 compilation of these, van Itallie asserts that he "worked on The Sea Gull, and later the other three plays, with a specially-made literal English translation and a selection of French translations."[13]

Dunnigan's final stage performance was in a staging of Sophocles' Antigone at The Public Theater, for the 1982 New York Shakespeare Festival.[1]

She died in her Manhattan apartment in 1997.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Staff writer (12 September 1997). "Ann Dunnigan, Actress and Translator, 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Ann Dunnigan at the Internet Broadway Database
  3. ^ Bordman, Gerald Martin (1996). American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1930–1969. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 108. ISBN 9780195090796. OCLC 34584009. 
  4. ^ The Lord Blesses the Bishop (1934 production) at the Internet Broadway Database
  5. ^ All the Living (1938 production) at the Internet Broadway Database
  6. ^ Williams, Tennessee; Hale, Allean (1997). The Notebook of Trigorin: A Free Adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Sea Gull. New York: New Directions Publishing. p. XII. ISBN 9780811213714. OCLC 37141254. 
  7. ^ Willis, John A. (1999). Theatre World, 1996–1997. New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. p. 182. ISBN 9781557833433. OCLC 42465014. 
  8. ^ "WBAI's War and Peace Broadcast: 35 Years Later". Democracy Now!. New York. 6 December 2005. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "Some Facts on Our Reading". WBAI Folio. WBAI. 11 (12): 8–9. 1970. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "The Cherry Orchard". Jean-Claude van Itallie – Plays. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  11. ^ Barnes, Clive (18 February 1977). "The Cherry Orchard". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 May 2012. 
  12. ^ Simon, John (2005). John Simon on Theatre: Criticism, 1974–2003. New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. p. 299. ISBN 9781557835055. OCLC 58985616. 
  13. ^ van Itallie, Jean-Claude (1995). Chekhov: The Major Plays. New York: Applause Books. p. viii. ISBN 9781557831620. OCLC 30894684. 

External links[edit]