Tadoussac Residency 2011: a marriage of two solitudes
Playwrights are converging on Fletcher Cottage this week, an out of the way reserve in Tadoussac, Quebec. With them is an army of artists of a different sort, ones who have the difficult job of making sure their work is never noticed. These are the translators, those oft-forgotten wordsmiths who ensure that dialogue glides off the page in a tongue the playwrights don’t speak (or at least, don’t speak well). Many metaphors can be given to describe the relationship between author and translator but at Tadoussac only one really applies: it is a marriage of two solitudes. Not English and French, but writer and writer.
Translation has quickly become an obsession with Playwrights Workshop Montreal, which has been the brainchild behind the colony for the last seven years. Last year marked the first instance of a “Translator’s Unit”, another initiative that allowed playwrights to meet their interpreters. It’s a good direction for the organization: in an ideal world writers would translate their own work – that’s what Samuel Beckett did and it worked out pretty well. But not all of us are as smart as M. Beckett. Nor are writers always fortunate enough to work closely with their translators. For this reason, Tadoussac serves a priceless function, allowing playwrights to work closely with the translators so as to help ensure their vision isn’t lost.
No author likes to lose control of a piece, especially after wrestling to find the perfect words for their characters to speak. Plays are more then just a series of events: Michel Tremblay’s plays fascinated audiences because of his use of joual, just as David Mamet’s terse, coarse dialogue has spawned legions of imitators. In seeing their work performed in other languages, all writers risk the magic of their words being (to use the hoary phrase) lost in translation.
Linda Gaboriau plays both host and chief dramaturg to the authors at Tadoussac, which is entering its seventh year.
Tadoussac is also quintessentially Canadian in that it takes advantage of the dual, sometimes-bilingual nature of our populace. But while the French / English translations are the most popular, they are by no means the only work being done at Fletcher Cottage. PWM have worked with shows originally written in Spanish, Italian, Catalan and German and there are plans for a Chinese translation in 2012.
This year, famed Governor General award-winning translator Linda Gaboriau plays both host and chief dramaturg to the authors at Tadoussac, which is entering its seventh year. Her name is probably the most well-known of the translators converging on Fletcher Cottage, the family home of Tarragon Theatre’s late founder Bill Glassco. The 2011 crop includes some other famous writers, like Michel-Marc Bouchard, and their not-so-famed translators, such as Shelley Tepperman, who will be doing double duty, first for Phillipe Ducros’ play L’affiche before moving onto Jennifer Tremblay's Le carrousel.
...residents are also provided with workshops, “happy hour” discussion sessions and meals provided by a live-in chef.
Writing about the residency in 2007, Ms. Gaboriau called the residency a “daily improvisation” with each artistic team given the freedom to work at their own pace. Each pair often has a specific goal – usually a completed draft – and Ms. Gaboriau remains on hand to facilitate the process and, one presumes, give the artists an encouraging kick in the pants. Meanwhile, residents are also provided with workshops, “happy hour” discussion sessions and meals provided by a live-in chef. The residency lasts for just over ten days, allowing artists a creative freedom not possible in their day-to-day lives.
The pressure’s on for all of the writers – each of them has a commitment for production by an established theatre. M. Ducros’ L’affiche is being produced this fall by Teersi Duniya while Pierre-Yves Lemieux and Clare Duffy’s Ana will be produced in both English and French by Imago Theatre and Espace Go. Megan Coles’ The Battery will go on to a second workshop at CEAD.
(In the interest of full disclosure, it should be mentioned that I’m a recent addition to the Board of PWM. But this isn’t why I’m biased; my bias is entirely based on the fact that I’m a playwright who hopes to one day have his work translated as well.)