Broadway Director Takes on a Play’s Translation Herself

When it comes to true artists, maybe passion and vision are all they need to make a satisfactory translation of a work in another language. Former Broadway star Liv Ullman will be putting that sentiment to the test when she directs her own language interpretation translation of the Norwegian play, A Doll’s House. Instead of using a professional translator or a translated version to develop her script, she will be doing it on her own to apply her own personal thoughts and beliefs about the production. She has a special understanding of the script as it is, because she starred in the show in 1975 on Broadway.

The Play is No Stranger to Translation

A Doll’s House was originally written in Norwegian when it was written by Henrik Ibsen. It premiered in Copenhagen in 1879, and has gone through countless translations and productions around the world since then. When it underwent a German translation, Ibsen’s agent actually made him change the ending so that it would suit German audiences at the time. The show has also been on Broadway in New York City thirteen times, and it even won a Tony award in 1997. In each of these thirteen productions, the play was translated to English in its entirety.

Artistic Translations Have Room for Error

Ullman probably wouldn’t take on the technical translation of a government document or a business translation for an important decision. She is not a professional, and such translations should be left to the professionals. However, a play is a work of art, and it’s always up to the interpretation of the director and actors. Therefore, even if her translation of A Doll’s House is not exactly correct word-for-word, she will still be applying her own style to the piece and the audience will still gain the intended insight by watching it. Luckily, Ullman also has many examples to refer to if she gets stuck since the play has been translated into English so many times.

Artistic translations certainly don’t require as much expertise as legal translations or technical translations, but there’s a good chance Ullman might need help with a word or two along the way. Even if she does seek out professional help on parts of the play where the translation is more difficult because of idioms and context, it will still prove to be an artistic extension of herself after she translates the bulk of it.

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