New US Theatre Translation Network Goes Online
A network of US-based theatre translators that has been developing over several years recently established itself online. tintnet.org is the website for TinT, the Theatre in Translation Network, which “brings together drama translators and others – directors, dramaturgs, producers, agents – committed to the promotion of plays in translation.” And TinT is one of a number of similar groups fostering interest in theatre from a trans-national perspective, and exploring various ways to collaborate.
The founders of TinT include Adam Versényi, who since 2007 has been editing the online journal The Mercurian: a Theatrical Translation Review, which publishes full plays in translation as well as articles about translation. In 2012, Versényi and Joseph Megel organized a conference at the University of North Carolina featuring staged readings of several plays that had appeared in The Mercurian, and the conversations among translators and directors at that event led to the idea of creating a network for new translations that would parallel the National New Play Network. Versényi proposed such a network in an article on HowlRound, and the following summer he and Megel, along with Adrien-Alice Hansel, convened a gathering at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC (including several people participating remotely), which brought translators together with literary managers, directors, dramaturgs, producers, and agents. Conversations focused on what the best models might be for such a network, how we might formulate our mission, what administrative structure we might adopt, etc.
While the 2013 meeting at the Studio Theatre made clear that there was plenty of enthusiasm for the idea of the network, it proved difficult to sustain that momentum once everyone returned to their many other projects. The discussion of how best to move forward continued in two New York meetings in 2014 and 2015, and gradually the group shifted its focus from the ambitious aim of establishing a full-fledged organization to investing energy in specific models and particular events. We had hoped to influence the season planning of regional theatres in the US, encouraging them to produce more plays in translation, but we recognized that the kind of risk-taking involved in such choices is more likely to happen in the university and college environment. Indeed, through inquiries to email lists, I discovered just how many professors are staging translations on campuses in North America. One of the perennial challenges for translators of contemporary drama especially is seeing the plays fully produced rather than just presented in a staged reading. One of our hopes is that by promoting production of translated plays at colleges and universities in the US and Canada – and drawing attention to such work already occurring – we can foster greater openness toward translation in future generations.
To that end, TinT also pursued the possibility of setting up an online database of new play translations. In the end, we decided instead to encourage play translators to register with the New Play Exchange, an impressive web-based platform that has benefited from precisely the kind of resources that weren’t available to us, and which is continually evolving in response to the needs of its users.
From the beginning, TinT has always operated through cooperation with other entities, and that will continue to be the case – and is altogether appropriate for the collaborative art form of theatre. The 2012 conference celebrated and was hosted by The Mercurian; the 2013 convening pursued, among other avenues, the connection to the NNPN; and the 2014 New York meeting took place during hotINK at the Lark, which has been presenting new drama in translation for many years. The following New York/Connecticut meeting early in 2015 brought together more groups than ever, including The Fence – founded in the UK but committed to meeting in cities all around the globe – and New International Theatre Experience (from which TheTheatreTimes.com was born) as well as hosts the O’Neill Theatre Center and the Lark.
The new website is designed to spread the word about TinT – the individuals involved in theatre translation, and the various groups whose goals overlap with ours. Those include, for instance, reading series like the International Voices Project in Chicago, which since 2010 has been presenting an annual series of staged readings of plays from overseas, and Eurodram, which sponsors contests for translations as well as original plays from all over Europe and beyond. The next event to involve TinT will reflect our decision to focus particular attention on the university and college setting: in April the International Play Festival at Ohio Northern University will feature staged readings of new translations by Versényi (of Ramón Griffero) and Chantal Bilodeau (of Catherine Léger) along with discussions of their work on those scripts and of the many challenging, important, and fascinating issues involved in translating for the stage.
Neil Blackadder translates drama and prose from German and French, specializing in contemporary theatre. His translation of Ewald Palmetshofer’s hamlet is dead. no gravity has been produced in Chicago and London, and his translation of Lukas Bärfuss’ The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents premiered in London and has had productions in several US cities. Other playwrights Neil has translated include Rebekka Kricheldorf, Maxi Obexer, Evelyne de la Chenelière, and Thomas Arzt, and he has received grants from the Howard Foundation and PEN, and held residencies at the Banff Center and Writers Omi. Neil teaches theatre at Knox College.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.