THE DRAMATIC WORLD OF JON FOSSE
A talk by Fosse’s translator May-Brit Akerholt
Is there a sense of otherness in Fosse’s work that may account for English-speaking theatre’s failure to take up his work? Does it feel too alien, in a similar way that Beckett’s did initially? But so did Ibsen’s work; it shocked and titillated audiences for a long time. There is no doubt, however, that Ibsen’s and Beckett’s plays grew out of their time and were part of what brought that time forward. Fosse’s plays do that now…
In this seminar, I will talk about translating plays for availability, publication, and performance. When the plays I translated were not to be performed, I was aware of the limitations posed by the lack of a rehearsal period to write the final version, but my long experience as a translator of drama for production, and my role as production dramaturg, played an important part in that process. Three of the translations were produced, and I shall look at two of Fosse’s plays in light of the text changes that occurred during the rehearsal process, once I had access to it.
Two aspects are essential in the process of translating a dramatic text: the first is full access to the original language — if not by your self, by someone familiar with theatre and its language; and the second is, highly developed dramaturgical skills at both textual and production levels. A third aspect becomes essential if a translation is produced: participation in the rehearsal process leading to performance. Throughout my work as a translator of drama, I have asked myself whether researching the processes involved in translating a play and its production will lead to a ‘methodology of translation and dramaturgy’. My conclusion is that although you can have guidelines and work according to certain principles, methods and rules are an impossibility in these two fields, as each and every project offers different challenges, questions and approaches.
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