“Play On’s work is important because it unlocks Shakespeare, decodes the work and takes out the bumps in the road to understanding. It makes Shakespeare feel more contemporary because the work is in conversation with living playwrights who bring their voices into the mix. It’s a way in for those new to Shakespeare and it’s refreshing for those more familiar with the plays. The complete works have not been translated into modern English before and it’s very exciting.
More than half of the playwrights who have translated the plays are women and more than half are people of colour – diverse voices responding to Shakespeare. When the scripts are published, they will be invaluable to artists, educators, students and anyone with an interest in Shakespeare and new writing. The fact that these works are by playwrights with sensitivity to beat, rhythm and language – not only conveying meaning – makes them so much more vibrant than the study guide translations we already have. They will spark off productions, workshops and dissertations on the relationship between Shakespeare, living playwrights, contemporary artists and modern audiences.”
Ben Spiller | Artistic Director, 1623 Theatre Company
“I translated King Henry VIII. One of the challenges of the translation process was that this play is by all accounts partly written by Shakespeare and partly by Fletcher, though there are some academic disputes about this. Nonetheless, it is a challenging play as it is episodic, mostly focused on the transactional nature of King Henry’s court, and the time when he first meets Anne Boleyn. The play feels almost to a contemporary ear like episodic television. It has elements of a procedural and of a pageant (spectacle) play. My approach to the translation was to locate the engine of the play and find a way to make the piece sing and move quickly and also to highlight its wit. My take on the translation is very much focused on acts of performance within the play – conscious performance by many of the lead characters – and then more earnest, non performative behaviours of characters that have little chance to ‘make it’ in the world of King Henry’s court. I found the entire process compelling and fascinating from a variety of artistic and academic perspectives.
I think Play On’s mission is clear and intralingual translations are very much a common occurrence in other countries working with texts that have, say, Golden Age Spanish language or old Dutch, etc. Shakespeare’s work is nimble and Play On focuses on making it more so, but also brings in the point of view of living playwrights and translators working on these texts.“
Caridad Svich | Playwright, Henry VIII
“The translations reach poetic and rhetorical heights which are a great pleasure to perform in their own right; the main benefit in my mind is a cultural clarity and textual responsiveness to modern modes. The playwrights have given an inclusive and fresh treatment to the arcane and the indecipherable—which allows one to see the play in full. Instead of relying on an outdated performance tradition to fill in gnarly sections, actors get to fully realize the essential proposals of the scene and directors get to work with the full play (as opposed to focusing on select moments everyone already knows). It all amounts to incredibly helpful information.
Play On has demonstrated a commitment to living their values of inclusion and cultural diversity, and the rewards of that work are very rich. I know the festival personally afforded me the chance to play roles most theaters would not consider me for, and across the board the festival casting consciously embraced the idea that if you’re going to be assaying human complexity, you really should hear from from the full range of human bodies, voices, and experiences. It was an incredibly proud moment in my career to feel like the world I moved in was being recognized onstage for its inherent value.”