Emma K Cole, Geraldine Brodie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Theatre provides an unusually visible and productive site to investigate the claimed divide between theory and practice - the arcane and the everyday. When plays in one language are translated into another for performance, it is not unusual for academic ‘literal’ translations to be reworked by theatre specialists to create a ‘performable’ text. As a result, a degree of tension, if not mistrust, exists between academic and theatrical worlds around the field of theatre translation. This volume, arising from a series of seminars and workshops by academics and practitioners, seeks to expand the dialogue by asking members of both professions to address the common topics of theatrical genres where translation is regularly practised: Naturalism, Classical Adaptations, Contemporary Drama and Modernism. Each section contains contributions from academic specialists, theatre practitioners, and individuals who belong to both vocations. How significant is academic research for the creation of a production for the stage, and how far should theatrical elements impose on the fine detail of linguistic transposition?

This introductory chapter discusses the polemic theoretical issues around theatre translation processes: translation/version/adaptation terminology, direct and indirect translation practices, performability and speakability concerns, and the perceived hierarchies of agents in the translation field. We explain how the Theatre Translation Forum initiative was conceived as a means to engage in the practical exploration of these issues, the aims and objectives of the series, and review the outcomes of the venture, supplementary to this volume.

The following section discusses the structure and contents of the volume. Why these genres? How does gathering this collection together around these topics forward our understanding of theatre translation, and the meeting of academics and practitioners? Naturalism, originally a reaction to the staged formality and codified language of theatrical presentation, could itself be seen as a metaphor for the practice versus theory debate, where Naturalism represents the practicalities of everyday behaviour in contrast to the theoretical formulae of academe. Classical Adaptations present opportunities to explore synchronic and diachronic issues of reception and representation. Contemporary Drama investigates cultural transfer and the engagement with the Other. Modernism, in the metatheatricality of its interrogation of narrative, provides a further metaphor for the theatre translation debate. Just as we use language to discuss language and translations to theorise translation, Modernism employs theatre to dissect theatre, querying the forms and structures operated in Naturalist theatre to recreate realism for the stage. For each genre, we analyse and contextualise the individual chapters, demonstrating their contributions to the overarching debate.

In conclusion, we assess the value of these theatre translation encounters in advancing an interprofessional, interdisciplinary dialogue amongst academics and practitioners, asserting that the academic-practitioner divide is itself a theoretical construct, destabilised by the blurred agencies of practices and individuals. These encounters with translating for the theatre demonstrate the many intersections where theory and practice can meet.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdapting Translation for the Stage
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameAdvances in Theatre and Performance Studies


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