The Importance Of “Hamlet”

The Bard’s tale on the machinations of Denmark’s royal family remains his most influential plays translated into Marathi says Vikram Phukan. In his authoritative tome, The Indian Theatre (1970), R.K. Yajnik states that, “No Shakespearean play, most faithfully rendered, has ever evoked such unbounded enthusiasm and admiration in India as the Marathi Hamlet.” Several writers have translated the tragedy, the longest and perhaps the most influential of Shakespeare’s plays, into Marathi. Several translations Indianised the characters while retaining the title of the play (for instance, Nana Yog’s abridged adaptation of 1959). Gopal Ganesh Agarkar’s Vikaravilasita, which opened in 1883, featured the legendary...

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Unpacking The Role Of Women In Ibsen’s “The Enemy Of The People”

Goodman’s Resident Dramaturg on how her work gives texture and specificity to a production. Consider the riddle of Neena Arndt’s work at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. She conducts research that informs designs but doesn’t design sets or costumes or soundscapes. She often appears on Goodman stages but is not an actor. Arndt is a dramaturg who researches playwrights, characters and their lives, relevant social and political events, and other themes for use by actors, designers, directors, and sometimes press offices. She might even have a hand in refining a play adaptation. She is part of the community that...

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“Ballyturk” Delivers A Surreal Yet Exciting Challenge

When Akira Shirai first read the script for Ballyturk, he quickly understood why its creator, Irish playwright Enda Walsh, said the work, “should bypass the intellect and go straight into your bones.” The 60-year-old artistic director at Kanagawa Arts Theatre in Yokohama was mulling over what to stage next and he says the hilariously absurd piece, with its three-person cast of characters named One, Two and Three, left him somewhat dumbfounded. “I said as much to the translator, Chizuko Komiyama, who then told me she didn’t get it either,” the director says with a laugh. “Yet somehow it just...

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Thou Art Translated! How Shakespeare Went Viral

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when Peter Quince sees Bottom turned into an ass-headed figure, he cries in horror: “Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee. Thou art translated!” Other characters in the play use the verb in similar ways to refer to a broad range of altered states. Helena hopes to be “translated” into Hermia, her childhood friend and rival, while a love potion transforms characters that come in contact with it. Appropriately enough, translation has come to define Shakespeare’s legacy. Since the 16th century, his plays and sonnets have been translated and performed all over the world in an...

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The Greatest Play Ever Written: Translating “The Cherry Orchard”

Rory Mullarkey introduces his new version of Chekhov’s masterpiece for Bristol Old Vic. “The Cherry Orchard is the greatest play ever written,” I declared, confidently, aged 16, to my mother, having just read The Cherry Orchard for the first time. She responded to my claim with a non-committal snort–remembering, perhaps, the production of The Seagull (the previous month’s “greatest play ever written”) I had dragged her to the Saturday beforehand, and which I had forbidden her from leaving at the interval because she was so bored–and continued with what she was doing, namely driving us to the dentist. But maybe her snort was prematurely...

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A Place To Be Seen: Global Queer Plays At The Arcola Theatre

On March 3 and 4 2018, the Arcola Theatre in East London presented Global Queer Plays, a series of rehearsed readings of LGBTQ+ plays in translation or from the parts of the English-speaking world less represented on UK stages. In this personal reflection on the event, translator and member of the festival’s team William Gregory describes the context of the festival, its story, and his hopes for its future. The Arcola Queer Collective was established in 2014. As part of the community engagement activities of the Arcola Theatre in the east London borough of Hackney, it seeks to involve...

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“Lessons Learnt” By A Professional Translator–Adapting The Same Play Three Times Over Three Years

I have just finished translating Mikhail Durnenkov’s The War Hasn’t Yet Started for the third time in as many years. I’m in an unusual situation–one translator creating three different versions of the same play. As far as I know, that doesn’t normally happen. I have tried to take advantage of each opportunity to re-translate the play, adapting it significantly to the specific target audience. In 2015, I translated The War for the first time, for my Ph.D. at Queen Mary University of London. Subsequently, this translation was presented as a rehearsed reading at the Frontline Club in London. I knew that the Frontline Club attracts a...

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American Actors Give New Voice To French Theater

As a young French director visiting New York with his theater troupe, Paul Desveaux hardly expected to fall in love with an American painter’s work one afternoon on a trip to a museum. Even more remote was the possibility that in 20 years, he would return to New York to direct his own production about that same artist. Yet further from his mind was the idea that this original French theater piece would be presented in English, and brought to life in part thanks to the French Embassy. But this is precisely what transpired. The year is 1998, and...

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“Y Tad” – Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru (A Welsh Translation of Florian Zeller’s “The Father”)

Terry Eagleton reminds us that in order for tragedy to occur, then the protagonist must be in search of their own complete individual identity of freedom [1]. That freedom, as I understand it, comes in multiple forms. Usually, if we begin in the Aristotelian sense, the harmatia (or, the tragic “flaw”) is that the character cannot be in control of the desired fate that (in ancient terms) the gods have set for them. In the case of Y Tad, that fate is out of the hands of Arwyn, the central protagonist of this story. As previously mentioned in my...

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“Pollock” A Play By Fabrice Melquiot: Conversation with French Director Paul Desveaux

A production from Compagnie L’Héliotrope, and co-presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. in New York and Abrons Arts Center with Jim Fletcher and Birgit Huppuch. In the play, Pollock acclaimed French playwright Fabrice Melquiot highlights how it is impossible to fully understand the brilliance and madness of Jackson Pollock without studying his marriage to artist Lee Krasner. Pollock translated into English by Kenneth Casler & Myriam Heard, and directed by Paul Desveaux, Compagnie L’Héliotrope, explores the charged empty space between Pollock—performed by Jim Fletcher—and Krasner—performed by Birgit Huppuch(*); between his genius and her spirit; between the inhibitions of the former and the frustrations...

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“I Feel As If I’m Loosing My Leaves:” Translatability Of Theme Through Language In Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Production Of Florian Zeller’s “Y Tad”

The universality of Florian Zeller’s undiminished modern masterpiece The Father has ceased to lose its translatability to a wider global audience. There aren’t many plays in the contemporary repertoire which have gauged the same excitement and fascination by audiences, scholars and theatre-makers alike. Here in September, the premiere of a recent Dutch translation by Jolijn Tevel reached the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam’s Leidseplein[i]. This month, Wales’ flagship Welsh language theatre company Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru will be the first company in Wales to present the inaugural Welsh translation by Geraint Løvgreen. The Play. The Father, premiered in Paris in 2015 (entitled Le...

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On Words In Motion: “Brodsky/Baryshnikov”

In scholarly debates on contemporary theatre, the question about language has primary importance. Critics as well as scholars, interested in diversity on stage, often discuss the advantages and the limitations of using two or more languages, the working of surtitles, and the rules of hospitality when a producing company decides not to translate their productions to the host audience. Brodsky/Baryshnikov (directed by Alvis Hermanis) that played this weekend in Toronto’s Winter Garden Theatre, with Mikhail Baryshnikov on stage reciting the poetry of his close friend and recipient of the 1987 Noble Prize in Literature, Joseph Brodsky, is proof in...

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A Theoretical Polarization Between Performability Versus Readability Or Towards “The Metaphysics Of A (Play) Text?”

In this essay, I want to discuss the interface the Semiotics of Theater and Theater Translation as well as about the theoretical polarization between the notions of performability and readability in Theater Translation since the mid-1980s. In the first part of the article, I present the different approaches to the study of theater put forward by theater semioticians like Zich, Mukařovský, Bogatyrëv, and Honzl (semioticians of the Prague School), Kowzan, and Ubersfeld. I also demonstrate how all theater semioticians’ agreement that the dramatic text (written text) is radically conditioned by its performability (mise en scène) has had a great impact upon translation studies and has led some theoreticians of translation studies to reexamine their position towards translating theater texts. In...

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From Skopje To London Via Hungarian And English: András Visky’s “The Unburied”

In November 2017, a world premiere by one of the Hungarian language’s leading playwrights was staged in a subterranean, site-specific production in London’s eastern borough of Hackney.  The play’s translator Jozefina Komporaly describes how this tale, based on the life of a woman born in Skopje, found its way to London via Hungarian, Romania, English, and one international theatre company’s pioneering theatre translation programme. [Foreign Affairs] theatre company was set up in 2010 by artistic directors Camila França and Trine Garrett with the express aim of championing dramatic traditions other than that of the Anglophone world. As an international organization...

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‘Les Incorrigibles’: The Publishing House Championing Spanish Theatre in France

Despite Spain being a near neighbor, Spanish theatre has enjoyed relatively little exposure in France.  After a decade living and working in the Spanish capital, editor, translator and theatre practitioner David Ferré set out to change this.  I discovered theatre by discovering a language:  Spanish.  The ten years I spent in the Madrid theatre scene, from 1991-2001, are the foundation of the work I do today as a translator and publisher, in Spain, Mexico, and France. Spanish playwriting is exceptionally vibrant.  Playwrights are at the center of a renewal in Spanish theatre aesthetics, raising the stakes in our understanding...

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A View From The Bridge: The Dramaturg’s Work on A Play in Translation

When talking about translation, statistics show an alarming picture. The United Kingdom has the lowest rate of published works in translation within the EU:  only around 2-3% of annual books published, including fiction and non-fiction. Literary translations were around a fifth of this figure–a fraction! To convert this into book numbers: out of the 100,000 different titles published in the UK in 1998, around 380 were from the literary domain. [i] I dare guess that probably plays in translation counted for only a fraction of this figure. Experience shows that plays in translation commonly appear on the British stage as readings rather than full productions. It is only a small number of theatres in Britain who can invest in commissioning a translation, and take the risk of producing foreign plays (Traverse, Gate, Young Vic, Old Vic, Donmar, Almeida, Arcola as well as the Royal Court and...

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Intercultural Theatre Practices – Interview With Frances Barbe

Interview conducted as part of the media partnership between Culture360 and International Theatre Institute (ITI).  Frances Barbe is a Director, Choreographer, and Performer and one of the speakers at the Asian Intercultural Conference in Singapore (which took place on 27-30 November 2017). Frances has shared her extensive experience in working in intercultural theatre and in particular with different training techniques, including butoh dance. Frances has worked all over the world. Her training combines western dance and theatre with contemporary Japanese approaches including butoh dance and Suzuki’s actor-training. She is Senior Lecturer at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth where she runs...

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“Goats” by Syrian Playwright Liwaa Yazjiat at The Royal Court

The civil war in Syria spawns image after image of hell on earth. Staging the stories of that conflict presents a challenge to playwrights: how do you write about horror in a way that is both accurate and entertaining? Goats, by Syrian playwright and documentary film-maker Liwaa Yazji, translated by Katharine Halls, is part of the Royal Court’s international project with writers from Syria and Lebanon and takes up this challenge. Her angle is to look at propaganda and to show how truth is the first casualty of war. She also examines what happens when that propaganda is questioned. Set in a...

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An Interview With Noah Birksted-Breen: Falling In Love With New Russian Plays

Noah Birksted-Breen is the artistic director of London’s Sputnik Theatre Company, which he co-founded in 2005. Sputnik is dedicated to translating and producing contemporary Russian plays in Britain. How did you come to the contemporary Russian theatre? I studied Russian language and literature at high school. I enjoyed it and kept going. I studied Modern Languages, Russian, and French at Oxford University. In retrospect, it may look like there was a plan but there wasn’t! I just found that I enjoyed languages and was lucky enough to have Russian on offer at my high school (which is fairly rare)…I...

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Natalya Vorozhbit’s “Bad Roads” At The Royal Court: Russian And Ukrainian Drama In The UK

This November, the Royal Court Theatre in London stages the global premiere of Ukrainian playwright Natalia Vorozhbit’s play Bad Roads in an English language translation by Sasha Dugdale. Vorozhbit is one of the most exciting writers of contemporary Ukrainian theatre, producing plays in both Ukrainian and Russian languages. Her multifaceted plays have been performed in Russia, Ukraine, and internationally, and are often united in their uncompromising confrontation of contemporary life and society in the former Soviet Union. Vorozhbit’s theatre is synonymous with the explosion of new theatre writing, produced by a new generation of dramatists in the 2000s, which...

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