Everything About the Challenges in Theater Translation

The theater is probably one of the most complex forms of arts. It requires performers, playwrights, directors, costumers, scene designers, composers, musicians, choreographers, lighting designers, stage managers, technicians, and, believe it or not, but also translators. As here, at BlueFlag Translations, we are experts in the field of translation and localization, in today’s blog post we will highlight the unique challenges of theater translation and will discuss the vital question of how theater translation should best be handled.

Translating for Theatre

Challenge #1. Script Translation

When it comes to theater translation, one of the most basic steps is, obviously, translating the script. For this particular task, experienced, skilled, qualified linguists that specialize in the field of theater arts are of significant importance, as, in this phase, the script needs to not only be rendered comprehensible for local audiences, but also flow as well as possible, with natural-sounding dialogues. Additionally, it is vital to make sure that the passion, purpose, context, or tone of the dialogue are not lost in translation.

Challenge #2. The Presence of Creativity

The whole process of theater translation is more art than science. For this, during the process of theater translation, creative writing ability is just as important as linguistic prowess. Theater translations should never be literal - they need to convey the full meaning of the original text, which includes cultural context. Moreover, some languages have idioms and sayings that don’t exist in other languages. Many of these are based on cultural cues which may not even exist in the culture of the target language.

Challenge #3. Addressing Cultural Factors

In spite of the fact that many countries share the same language; accents, vocabulary, and overall culture may vary greatly. For this, localization may also be applied to additional cultural elements. For example, some dances may be altered to appeal to local audiences. Of course, this may sound like just a small detail change; however, it is very important, as failure to bear regional differences in mind may confuse, distract, and even offend local audiences.

Challenge #4. Lyrical Content Localization

Musical theater is an especially tricky type of theater translation that requires the aid of lyricists to ensure that song dialogue sounds as in the original version. When it comes to theater translation, an understanding of what sounds pleasant to local audiences is crucial: what sounds appealing to American ears may be completely grating to a Russian speaker. In this phase, in some particular cases, composers may also be involved to make some musical adjustments. These may include using traditional instruments in a song or adding a particular song that is in a traditional local style.

The Odd Challenge #5. Misunderstanding

As mentioned in the introduction, all theater plays require performers, playwrights, directors, and more, and these roles are largely understood by everyone involved; however, translators, unfortunately, are almost always interlopers into the world of playmaking. As a result they are all too often neglected, misunderstood, or, at words, mistrusted.

According to a theater translator William Gregory, when a translated play is a once-in-a-blue-moon project for a theater company, the translation services provider becomes an added person whose function is rarely considered in advance. However, if they had actually thought about it in advance, the whole project might have benefited in so many ways, as theater translators are not just technicians. When it comes to theater translation, translation services providers stand not only between two texts but between two cultures.

In Conclusion

Ready to embrace us? Here at BlueFlag Translatons we are native Russian and Ukrainian speakers, so in case you want to stage an English language play in Russia or Ukraine, our translation, localization, and cultural consulting services will definitely come in handy, as we can help you not only with the words and phrases, but also with the dramaturgical life of your play.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter to always be up to date!
See more, learn more.
Please wait