American Theatre

Why We’re Translating Shakespeare

Though our ‘Play on!’ commissioning project has met with some vocal disapproval, the work is grounded in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s core values—and our love for the Bard.

By Bill Rauch | October 14, 2015

There have been many choices that have made the Oregon Shakespeare Festival successful over our 80-year history, but the strongest through-line is the festival’s ability to remain faithful, attentive to, and frankly in love with our namesake playwright. The festival’s history is also one of continual innovation. The relationship between tradition and innovation is not always easy, but it’s in the spirited dialogue between those two values that we continually learn how to reach more people and how to engage audiences more deeply. Our new Play on! translation project fits squarely in the heart of that conversation between fidelity and innovation.

I am not surprised that the project has generated both excitement and concern. There is enormous excitement about our incredible commissioned artists entering these texts and giving audiences a different lens for experiencing them. The concerns seem to be twofold; the first is that we somehow intend these new translations to replace the original texts, and the second is that we are “dumbing down” the language.