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'I'll Roughen It Up a Bit': Multiple-Authored Theatre Translations

Laera, Margherita (2011) 'I'll Roughen It Up a Bit': Multiple-Authored Theatre Translations. In: Invisible Presences, 18-20 April 2011, Queen's University Belfast. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:31607)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.


This paper investigates translation for the stage as an inherently collaborative process, disrupting the generally accepted model of single authorship in translation. I will be analysing two case studies drawn from my recent experience as theatre translator: a production of Mohamed Kacimi’s play Letter to the Corinthians (2010) performed at Milan’s Piccolo Teatro, and a staging of my play Appuntamento dal Ginecologo (2010) performed in Rabat, Morocco.

Letter to the Corinthians was commissioned from Kacimi by the Italian Institute for Contemporary Dramaturgy, which was also acting as producer. The commission explicitly required a focus on the Islamic veil, but Kacimi, a Franco-Algerian atheist obsessed with the history of religions, had found it difficult to engage with this theme. When a first synopsis was finally submitted by the author, the commissioner/producer found it had no relationship with the veil and was therefore not acceptable. Following negotiations, a new synopsis was agreed and a first, incomplete draft was only submitted a few days before the opening. During rehearsals, collaboration between writer, director, actors and translator was critical to the play’s final version. Moreover, the ‘voice’ of the actors, who constantly changed the text during the performance, was superimposed on those of the author and translator. Speaking about the script during rehearsals, the main actress asked me: “I’ll roughen it up a bit, OK?”. Her sentence aptly summarises the process of transition from a neat, orderly page to the embodied, oral communication model of a stage performance, while commenting on the untenability of the traditional single-authorship paradigm.

The second case study, a Moroccan production of my play Appuntamento dal Ginecologo, also involved collaborative writing and translation. The text was translated from Italian into French and Moroccan Arabic (Darija) by four different writers and then performed in two languages. The first French text, a ‘literal’ self-translation, was later reworked into a ‘performable’ script by Mohamed Kacimi. Given Morocco’s bilingualism, the Czech director of the play agreed with the local actors that it would ‘make sense’ to perform certain scenes in Darija. Four out of eight scenes were therefore translated by the actors, and later reworked by the Moroccan playwright Driss Ksikes. The result was a heterogeneous work incorporating the ‘voice’ of author, director, translators and actors, confirming the proposed model of multiple authorship.

What can be learned from these case studies? In my conclusion, I comment on the notion of ‘performability’ and on problems of intercultural negotiation that emerged in the two productions, arguing that translating for theatre is necessarily a collaborative process. It is useful, therefore, to think of multiple authorship in theatre translation as the norm, rather than the exception.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The theatre
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
Depositing User: Margherita Laera
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2012 08:54 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:09 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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