MU performance Thursday will honor renowned play translator

Thursday, October 29, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Caridad Svich has adapted and reinterpreted many plays. From a Greek playwright to a Latina novelist, she has put her own spin on classic authors' stories.

One author she never imagined re-writing, however, was Federico García Lorca, a Spanish playwright and poet whose plays Svich has been translating for years.

“I feel like my mission with Lorca has always been just to make it available in American English," Svich said. "Most of the translations that exist are British or Welsh. They’re done in the English language. They’re performed in the English language, and I wanted to hear it with an American sound.”

At 8 p.m. Thursday, the MU department of theatre will stage a performance of Lorca's “The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife,” as translated by Svich. The performance is in honor of Svich’s visit as artist-in-residence and is free to the public.

Although Lorca is best known for heavy dramas such as “Blood Wedding,” Svich said “The Shoemaker’s Prodigious Wife” is one of Lorca’s more whimsical and mischievous plays.

Svich is not only a renowned translator. She is also a playwright, editor and teacher and has come a long way from when she started out at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

Svich originally attended UNC-Charlotte to study acting, but during her second year and after winning a national playwriting award, she changed her plans.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I could really do this. This is not just a dream I’m having. This is actually a viable option,'” Svich said.

Initial success came when Svich was admitted into the legendary Irene Fornes’ workshop for Latino-Americans. Within a year, she had “But there are fires” produced, and in 1992, one of her full-length plays, "Any Place But Here,” was produced.

“Caridad is arguably the most famous student of Irene Fornes," said David Crespy, associate professor of theatre at MU. "Irene Fornes was a Cuban-American playwright who came out of the same '60s period who taught playwriting to a lot of Latino writers.”

Crespy brings up another important aspect of Svich’s work: music. Svich is also a songwriter, and music often takes a central role in her pieces.

“She’s just real experimental in her work and uses all forms of media in her work," Crespy said. "It’s just wildly imaginative and theatrical in her technique."

The divide between American theater and other cultures is growing in Svich’s eyes. In spite of globalization, she sees the industry treating these cultures as items on a checklist.

“The other voices that also exist are also part of American drama but have somehow been etched out of the broader conversation," Svich said. "I think that it's not healthy and generates more divisions and categories."

Svich creates rich female characters that go beyond traditional types. As a one-time actor and one with friends who are actors, she tries to create parts that an actor would want to perform.

“I’m interested in seeing complicated women on stage, as interested as I am in seeing complicated men," Svich said. "I think drama is about that.”

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