Tuesday, February 12, 2013

HATER: The Translator

 Samuel Buggeln (who says his name is pronounced “like bug-ellen. It rhymes with melon. Or felon”) founded Vancouver’s Liquid Theatre, a company devoted to site-specific work. He is the veteran artistic associate for the Obie-winning New Ohio Theatre Company, where he directed the first production of Hater.

 Buggeln is also New York City-based Artistic Associate for Portland Stage, a regional theatre in Maine. He has cast and directed many of their recent shows. He works on new plays in New York at the Lark Development Center. He developed and directed Bedbugs!!!, an 80s sci-fi musical, which won 5 jury awards from the New York Musical Theatre Festival on its way to Off-Broadway.

 He also developed and directed Go-Go Kitty, GO! which received the Best Play FringeFirst Award among 200 shows at the FringeNYC festival.

 As translator, Buggeln notes that Hater is the first version of Moliere’s The Misanthrope to be done in free verse rather than rhymed. While Moliere’s rhymed lines sound colloquial in French, the effect is not at all the same in English, he says. “Rhymes are vastly harder to find in English than in French, for lots of technical reasons. This forces the translator into all kinds of textual inaccuracies, stilted locutions, and poorly landed jokes. And once s/he has gone to all that trouble, the effect of rhyming couplets in English is completely unlike their effect in French, so there goes any feeling of equivalency anyway.”

 But he didn’t drop the idea of rhyming (and there are a few in his text) as a matter of principle or to make a point. “I didn't land on my approach by thinking through these arguments, of course. I found my way here by experimentation, simply looking for a way to transmit in English what was most exciting to me about the play in French.”

 Though this approach is somewhat controversial, other translators and academics have supported his version. “Samuel Buggeln's living and lively translation breathes new life into those old alexandrines,” according to Jody Enders, a professor who translates medieval French farce. “In his hands Le Misanthrope has never been more alive, more fun, more contemporary, more eternal.”

 “Buggeln's bold new translation of Le Misanthrope offers a fresh approach that crackles with a contemporary sensibility while remaining true to the original source,” commented professor Jordan Schildcrout. “Without gimmicks or glibness, Hater makes Molière's sharp and witty satire available to today's audiences with the most playable and pertinent translation I've had the pleasure of hearing in the theatre.”

Website for HATER
Samuel Buggeln's website

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