The Quinnipiac University Theater for Community will be performing a production of Brian Friel’s “Translations” at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven from Feb. 25-28.
“Translations” is set in a small town called Baile Beag, in County Donegal, Ireland, in 1833. It is a story about the power of language and identity, and the way the two can connect or separate people of two different cultures. Two officers of the British military come to translate the original Gaelic town names into English with the purpose of creating a map. With their culture in danger, the Irish must choose either to conform to the
English way or rebel. Meanwhile, one of the British officers and a local Irish woman who speak different languages fall in love.
“It is a demanding play for the audience, a very moving and thought-provoking play even for us in the U.S.,” said Drew Scott, director and part-time faculty member. “Characters find that when they let words go, they find a connection on other levels. The play lives or dies through the connection to the characters.”
All of the actors are Quinnipiac students who have been working with a dialect coach to properly portray their respective Irish and English-speaking characters.
Professor of English Robert Smart’s Modern Irish Drama students are learning about “Translations” not only through text but by seeing it performed on the stage as well.
“It seems to deal with the longstanding issues in Ireland from one perspective (nationalist), and then when you are in the play, you realize that nothing here is simple,” Smart said. “Nothing here is like the typical conversations that have polarized Irish politics.
“I have always taught this play in Modern Irish Drama for the reasons I previously mentioned, but also because it marks such a rich crossing point in the evolution of the Irish stage – that’s also what I hope my students will find when they see it.”
Scott also noted that there is a hard, bitter quality to the play and hopes that there is a sense of pain and loss portrayed.
“Translations” was written by Friel in 1980, and was first performed that same year in Derry, Ireland. In 1981 it was awarded the Ewart-Biggs Peace Prize.
“Maybe we can all learn something about the dangers of oversimplifying clashes like this and about how it is our humanity that offers the only solution, not bombs, threats and war,” Smart said.