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Inhabiting the Play: Theatre Translation as a Productive Site of Reflection and Research - Wednesday 28 April 2021

BCLT Research Seminar – Sophie Stevens - Inhabiting the Play: Theatre Translation as a Productive Site of Reflection and Research
Wednesday 28 April 2021, 4–5.30pm, Online

A play in translation is never about just seeing something other than ourselves, it always challenges us to reflect on who we are and how we are acting in our current circumstances. This is why, I argue, theatre translation is necessary in times of crisis, difficulty and challenge (even during times of pandemic). In this talk, I advocate for the ways in which theatre translation offers new perspectives which enable us to make sense of, critique, engage with and understand both the lives of others and our own situation. I draw on Doris Sommer’s The Work of Art in the World (2014) and Sarah Maitland’s What is Cultural Translation? (2017) to propose that this encounter with ideas which challenge how we think about ourselves and others occurs throughout the process of theatre translation, as the translator researches the dramatic text, and when audiences see a translated play.

In my own work as a theatre translator, I see myself as temporarily inhabiting a text and refer to Sirkku Aaltonen’s (2000) idea of the translator and other practitioners as tenants. I develop these ideas in dialogue with my recent work to translate Argentine Dramatist Mónica Maffia’s play The Anemone and The Boar, and use examples from this play to demonstrate how the translation process has sparked questions which have helped me to shape and refine the research questions for my Leverhulme project, Latin American Women Dramatists as Artists, Activists and Agents of Change. I propose that by moving into a text we occupy a space which enables us to reflect critically and creatively on research questions as we engage in the acts of translation. As a result, the process of theatre translation offers a constructive space in which the translator is constantly in dialogue with research practice.

Dr Sophie Stevens is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. Her research project, Latin American Women Dramatists as Artists, Activists and Agents of Change, investigates the work of Latin American women dramatists in order to explore links between activism, performance, digital networking and translation. Between 2017 and 2020, she worked on the Translation Acts Research Strand of Language Acts and Worldmaking, a flagship project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Open World Research Initiative. Her work has been published in Symposium: A Quarterly Journal in Modern Literatures and The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review.  Sophie is the author of Uruguayan Theatre in Translation: Theory and Practice, which will be published by Legenda in 2021 and which includes three new stage-ready translations of plays by Raquel Diana, Estela Golovchenko and Carlos Maggi. She is a member of the Out of the Wings Theatre Collective and has presented English translations at the Out of the Wings Festival, New Spanish Playwrighting Festival (Cervantes Theatre) and CASA Latin American Theatre Festival (Southwark Playhouse).

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