Last week, Nora sent us a draft of her play. I would estimate, languagewise, that it’s about 2/3 German. My German has progressed to the level that I can get the general gist of most of the passages. She’s translating it for us (so that we know what it says — the German’ll be in the production), but I plan to roughly translate the German myself too. I feel like from a directing standpoint that’s probably wise.
This whole project would be a lot more difficult if Nora weren’t an English Literature major with an excellent command of both languages, able to write in both and translate in either direction. Not impossible, but a LOT more difficult. So Nora’s genius is something to be thankful for.
A draft of mine is also done (well, sort of missing a monologue). I wrote exclusively in English, of course, but Nora’s busy translating the sections I intend to be in German.
We are bringing 3 actors in addition to Christina this summer, Lauren, Parag, and Mary — a new development. Nora wrote Christina and Parag into her play; I’ve got Lauren and Mary. Here’s one challenge: Nora knows Christina and her German actors, but not Parag; I know Mary and Lauren, but not the three German actors I wrote for. Personally, I know the parts I wrote for M&L are well tailored to them, but the other roles are all guesswork. Lauren is, at the moment, the only American actor performing a significant portion of her lines in German. I think Christina does have some.
With all this talk of language: We look back on last summer and the Augsburg actors’ response to Christina. “She’s so professional!” It’s harder there than here to get decent training in theatre, decent performance opportunities, if you’re not in a conservatory. Much harder. So we’ve been very excited about bringing more actors who are products of an American non-conservatory theatre program this summer. But you know what they (we) don’t have? A command of German. Lauren, probably the most proficient, learned in high school, a few years back by now; Christina has what she garnered from private tutoring with Leonie this semester; Parag and Mary have next to none (though Mary swears by the podcast of a Swiss gentleman named Sven). I’ve got two semesters of German under my belt but am still way too timid to try to hold a conversation, generally.
In Unfall last summer, Nora’s play, Christina performed with a German actor, Steve, who delivered his lines in German. Christina spoke English. She knew no German. She had the translation of Steve’s lines, but in actual performance, when they’re being spat at you that quickly, it’s difficult to understand…well…a language you don’t know. I recorded Steve and myself reading the scene for her and she’d listen to that over and over, to learn her lines; it was a huge challenge for both of them, because ad libbing was a near impossibility. Forget a line, and how is Christina supposed to know Steve’s trying to fix things auf Deutsch, and how?
This is something we’ll have to deal with multiplied several times over this summer. It’s going to require a lot of dedication on the part of our non-German-speaking actors — and our bilingual ones too.