CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Theatre History Podcast # 6: Diversifying the Classics with Barbara Fuchs

HowlRound: Spain’s Siglo de Oro, or Golden Age, was a period in which the country’s political and economic power contributed to a cultural flowering that included a vibrant and prolific theatre scene. However, only a few plays from this era get taught in college classrooms or produced onstage. Barbara Fuchs of UCLA is trying to change this with the Diversifying the Classics project, which aims to take previously overlooked plays and translate them for an English-speaking audience.


Xinyi Wang said...

I just looked at the website of Diversifying the Classics, and it is such a wonderful and important project. Studying theater in different languages is so important for understanding how language and storytelling work in different cultural contexts. It is also amazing to see that this initiative involves the process of translating, instead of just producing. Translation is in itself an analytical process, and a lot of nuances in language can be potentially neglected (intentionally) or created in this process. In the past I have watched Chinese reproductions of English-language plays which completed lost the essence of the original version due to failure in translation. But there are also plays that have "appropriated" the original content with culture-awareness, so it turned out to be very interesting and unique. I really hope that CMU can experiment with something like this as well, inviting people from different cultural backgrounds to contribute to the production.

Aubrey Sirtautas said...

I think it is really important to produce a variety of plays beyond what we would denote as the “classics”. There is always something to be learned from doing a play or working with a text by a playwright that you are unfamiliar with. I think our Horizons Reading Series does a good job of presenting plays that while not applicable to be produced in our season for many reasons, are worth hearing out loud in a theatrical space. We might not produce a play for casting or scale reasons, but the language or diversity of the play makes it ideal to be learned in an educational setting.
In the sub-article “Diversifying the Classics”, the page mentions that changing not only the diversity of the personnel but also the diversity of the canon would change how we view the world, and I think that this is important. Observing the world from a lens you might otherwise know nothing about can change how you view a culture and that is worth investigating.

Amanda Courtney said...

I think this strikes at the heart of a problem with our current "classics". While catering to English speaking audiences feels like a less than ideal solution (as though only English speakers are allowed to set canon and declare something a "classic), this increase in accessibility will be beneficial to theatrical culture in the long run. In expanding our definition of a "classic" to be more inclusive of a larger global narrative, we - as a global culture - will be forced to revise how we approach theater and content and the stories we produce today. Inclusion seems to be a concept taking root in the very heart of theater these days, and this translation effort seems like a logical extension and step in that direction. I myself have never really heard about or interacted with Spain's Golden Age (the example provided in the article), and think that targeting weakness in knowledge such as this will produce more globally sensitive and culturally literate theater makers moving forward.