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    • 20 Feb 2019
    • 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM
    • The Players Club, 16 Gramercy Park S, New York, NY 10003
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    Theatre and Translation

    A Reading and Conversation

    With Robin Beth Levenson


    The New York Society for General Semantics is pleased to host a book launch for Acting Chekhov in Translation: 4 Plays, 100 Ways (New York: Peter Lang, 2019) by Robin Beth Levenson. Dr. Levenson is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York. She received her PhD from New York University, an MFA from the University of California, Riverside, and has presented at conferences on translation and communication studies at the University of East Anglia, England, the American Literary Translation Association, the New York State Communication Association, the Eastern Communication Association, the City University of New York League of Speech Professors, and—coming this April—at the international Stanislavski Symposium at the University of Malta.  She has acted professionally in Los Angeles and New York on stage, film and via voiceovers. Her research explorations include how language influences thought and behavior, and the nature of performance.

    Michael Plugh, Professor of Communication at Manhattan College and a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Society for General Semantics will moderate the event, which will include a conversation, discussion, reading, book signing, and reception with refreshments.

    From the author:

    My teacher Stella Adler said, “I am a student by nature. I am a scholar as well as an actress.” Ideally, actors do practical research on their roles; they are “script interpreters.” I’m a scholar and an actor as well. But this book does not  presume to “interpret” Anton Chekhov’s work definitively, or to assess which translations of his plays in English are the “best.” It is, rather, an exploration of how practitioners and scholars may approach script analysis when the play is in translation. Interpretation is up to the individual production, and to the audience. Chekhov’s plays provide useful examples for this examination of the playscript.

    The actor’s granular explication of theatre texts—as playwright Lee Blessing notes in his blurb for my book—means we must explore all possible avenues of meaning and behavior in creating a role, based on just the written dialogue we are given. This practice of the actor is significantly related to the ideas of General Semantics. Korzybski’s idea of “time-binding” says “Time-binding is something we do. [In order to] deliberately, consciously change [or], improve our way of being, we have first to be awake to What? How? and Reasons for doing what we are doing.” This too is what the actor does, which results in his Actions on the stage. The actor must be “Awake” to all aspects of the script in order to discover its underlying meanings.

    With 145 translations I discovered, the book describes the nature of translation for the stage, the notion of Action, Chekhov’s inimitable dramaturgy and his last four masterpieces that changed the path of modern drama, illuminating how our language determines our behavior.

    From the publisher's blurb: 

    Iconic Russian writer Anton Chekhov is recognized as the most translated and produced playwright in the world after William Shakespeare―that is, he is the most produced and most highly regarded modern playwright in English translation. Chekhov’s style models our behaviors and aspirations in alluring and intricate ways, unmatched in playwriting. His plays determined Realism in language and acting practice from the late 19th century to the present. Acting Chekhov in Translation: 4 Plays, 100 Ways explores the history of translation, contemporary and controversial approaches to stage translation, the notion of "action" from Aristotle to Adler (and beyond), and Chekhov’s inimitable dramaturgy. English translations, adaptations and versions of The SeagullUncle VanyaThe Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard are each considered from the actors’ points of view, from the page to the stage.

    The nature of stage translation has recently undergone novel and provocative changes: how can someone who does not know the source language adapt or translate a play? It is done frequently, and the outcomes are investigated herein. For the translator as well as practitioners, understanding theatre craft is essential to producing playable and engaging productions. Differences in the language, punctuation, syntax, sound, rhythm, stage directions and what appears on the written page in various translations affect the work of the actor on the playscript.

    The purpose of this inquiry is not to definitively evaluate or interpret Chekhov’s plays but to discover approaches to working on plays in translation and to determine practical tools we may use in the analysis of dramatic form, as well as human behavior. This book includes selections from 145 translations and translators of all four plays and a glossary of acting terms that helps describe concepts for practical script analysis.

    Come join us for a gathering and celebration that is sure to be dramatic and transformative!

    6 PM to 9 PM February 20th at the historic Players Club in Gramercy Park. 

    Registration is free, but all attendees must be registered in order to gain admittance to the club. This includes any guests you might want to bring with you.

    The program will take place in the Library on the 2nd floor of the club. Please note that, as an historic 19th century landmark, the site is not handicap accessible. Dress code is business casual and is strictly enforced, including no sneakers, shorts, ripped jeans, t-shirts).


Past events

18 Jan 2019 The State of the Semantic Environment
19 Dec 2018 What is Sanity? And Have We Lost It?
28 Nov 2018 The Reformed English Curriculum Revisited 2
27 Oct 2018 Language and Meaning in the 21st Century Symposium
26 Oct 2018 The 66th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture & Dinner
03 Oct 2018 Political Talk and Political Drama: Election 2018
27 Jun 2018 Tom Wolfe, Man of Letters, Man of Words: A Panel Discussion
02 May 2018 Language, Symbol, and the Theatre
04 Apr 2018 The Language of Poetry 2
21 Feb 2018 Trauma: Semantic Reactions, Reflections, Retentions
26 Jan 2018 The Reformed English Curriculum Revisited
06 Dec 2017 Play, Learning, and Language: A Panel Discussion
03 Nov 2017 Dark Nets and Disruptive Practices
28 Oct 2017 Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk Symposium
27 Oct 2017 The 65th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture & Dinner
04 Oct 2017 Words, Mind and Magic
08 Sep 2017 Media Ecology and the Human Condition: A Reading and Conversation With Lance Strate
26 Apr 2017 Between Map and Territory: The Art of the Tour Guide
29 Mar 2017 Systems, Contexts, Frames, and Patterns: A Reading and Conversation With Nora Bateson
01 Mar 2017 Science Fiction, Language, and General Semantics
08 Feb 2017 Post-Truth, Alternate Facts, & Fake News
30 Nov 2016 Music-Lyrics-Language: Bob Dylan and the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature
26 Oct 2016 Political Talk and Political Drama Part 2
22 Oct 2016 Language in Thought and Action Symposium
21 Oct 2016 The 64th Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture & Dinner
14 Oct 2016 New York State Communication Association Conference
28 Sep 2016 The Language of Poetry
09 Sep 2016 Political Talk and Political Drama: Election 2016
02 Jun 2016 NYSGS Meet-Up


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