Theatre translation as performance

Sirkku Aaltonen

In 2008, the Finnish National Theatre produced the Lebanese/Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad’s tragic play Incendies in Finnish. The advertisements, newspaper pre-reviews and reviews named Reita Lounatvuori, a well-known Finnish theatre translator, as the author of the translation. However, several other people were also involved in the translation process before Mouawad’s text reached the stage. In my article, I offer an empirical study of the process of translation of Incendies into Finnish to argue that translations in the theatre are not objects of art but products of art worlds, bearing the fingerprints of many subjectivities. To support my argument, I draw on Actor-Network Theory, as recently developed in the context of translation sociology (Buzelin 2007, 2005; Bogic 2010), and on Performance Studies, following Richard Schechner’s articulation of the concept of performance (Schechner 2013). I apply these models to the specific context of the theatre, the specific genre of drama, and the process of translating one play. This interdisciplinary exploratory study argues for the relevance of Schechner’s analytical model, and more broadly of Performance Studies, to the analysis of interlingual translation processes.

Table of contents

Translated playtexts on stage can very rarely be attributed to an individual translator. All theatre practitioners are involved, to some degree, in the rewriting of a text for a particular production. What varies is not the extent to which they are involved, but the power they exercise during the process (Aaltonen 2000: 38–41; Espasa 2000). While the roles played by directors, dramaturgs, and actors during collaborative translation (Baines et al. 2010) and the economic constraints of such collaborations (Aaltonen 2007; Aaltonen 2000: 88–89; Bennett 1997: 125) have been acknowledged by scholarship in theatre and translation studies, the [ p. 386 ]contribution of various subjectivities in the production of translation networks has only recently been taken under closer scrutiny. The discovery of the work of Bruno Latour and its potential for the study of both human and non-human actors has made possible the unveiling of multiple subjectivities in the manufacture of translations. In the twenty-first century, Latour’s actor-network theory (ANT) has gained a firm foothold in Translation Studies (TS), and a number of scholars (Buzelin 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012; Wolf and Fukari 2007; Hekkanen 2009; Risku and Dickinson 2009; Kung 2009; Milton and Bandia 2009; Bogic 2010; Abdallah 2012 and forthcoming; Siponkoski in progress, etc.) have begun to explore the role played by invisible actors in the translation process.

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