Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker

In late October, the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker gave a talk at the university where I work on adaptation and translation.

It was a tour-de-force of a talk, exploring what we mean by a “source” or “original” (connecting this to the concept of the source of a body of water), and discussing some of her own experiences translating/adapting. She questioned whether there is a true source and if it should always be the authority. She felt that just like a river, a source is always changing.

She also noted that a good translation should reveal, and that people might need to read multiple translations in order to get these revelations about a text (and its context).

Wertenbaker herself has adapted many different texts and she said adaptation is essential because it keeps stories alive. Today, media can play this role, perhaps more than plays and novels. She said, “We need film and TV because they may be the only way that stories survive.”

These were just a few of the ideas she raised during her talk, which was generally quite thought-provoking.

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