Finding the Right Words

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When it comes to translating foreign literature, we are often left with a mediocre replica of the original work. Although the translation may be similar, there is always something missing. Always another way to phrase a sentence or express an emotion authentically. Even in daily interactions, whether in-person or over social media, we are constantly running through our minds trying to find the "right words to say." There have been countless times where I've looked back at a conversation and wished I would have said something differently. If every human-being expresses themselves in different ways, internally and externally, how then can we accurately translate one person's language to another? And in terms of literature and performance, how can we take a character from a foreign story or play and translate their words just as the author wrote them? Impossible as it may seem, New Saloon could have very well found a solution.  

In their show Minor Character, New Saloon presents a ridiculously clever interpretation of Anton Chekhov's classical Russian play, Uncle Vanya. Each character in the show, excluding "the professor", is assigned to three different actors, all of whom continuously transition between roles. While portraying their characters, each actor performs various translations simultaneously and at different areas of the stage. The translations range from the original 1916 text to the modern day "Google Translator" version, which adds a hilarious twist to the script. In addition, the actors bring their own version of the characters to the table; creating a constant flow of diversity and dialogue throughout every scene. 

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The best way I could describe Minor Character would be "well-crafted madness." It is as if the audience jumps into the character's heads and witnesses them loosing their minds; constantly talking to the other versions of themselves as they try to think of what to say next. In a generation where social media allows us to interact with multiple individuals at the same time, Minor Character's chaotic rendition of Uncle Vanya actually made the play easier to understand, and ultimately more entertaining. Due to the countless interpretations of the text and performance, the audience doesn't have to worry about missing a line, because it will be said two more times, by two other actors, in two different translations. 

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