Translation & drama collide in Dallas this Sunday, February 15th!
It’s been a dream of mine since starting Deep Vellum to work with some of the amazing arts organizations we have across the Dallas area to talk about the intersections of translation and literature with visual, performing, and interpretive arts. So far the local arts community has responded in a big way that has left me equally impressed and grateful, we’ve booked such events as the upcoming GalleryLab talk on translation (“The Mother Tongue”) with Sean Cotter at the Nasher Sculpture Center, and this weekend I will be leading a Q&A with the performers after the Dallas Actors’ Lab’s performance of Uncle Vanya at the Wyly Theater in Dallas’s incredible Arts District (7pm, Sun. February 17, in the Wyly Theater’s 9th Floor Studio Theater).
This all came about because I work in an awesome coworking space alongside Theater Jones, the destination for theater talk, reviews, previews, and awesomeness in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Theater Jones, knowing I specialize in publishing translations and am actively seeking local theater partnerships to start publishing & staging translated drama, asked me if I’d like to preview this Dallas Actors’ Lab production of Annie Baker’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya for them, interviewing the director Dylan Key, and turning the conversation around the issue of translation and, in my own way, trying to tie the art of translation to the art of staging a theatrical adaptation (of just about anything). It’s an interesting idea to stage Chekhov in Dallas, and doubly so in that this is the first time Annie Baker’s adaptation, working off a “literal translation” by Margarita Shalina, has run in Dallas. Triply interesting in that Baker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Flick just ran at the Undermain Theater in January (two months, two Annie Bakers, not bad, Dallas, not bad—PS, you can buy both of Baker’s plays through Theatre Communications Group, we share a distributor, Consortium, so I’m all about spreading the love).
The piece that resulted I’m quite proud of and was super fun to write, you can check it out here, “The Translation Game” at Theater Jones:
Our conversation veered from Annie Baker to Chekhov to Dallas as a regional theater powerhouse and about the state of the dramatic arts in Dallas to why the University of Dallas has such a good English program, putting out consistently impressive alumni who are not afraid to take creative risks in their careers at early stages. But the main gist of the conversation ran with the tripartite question: “Why this play? Why now? And why in this space?”
The answer to all three is simple, well, as simple as putting together a play in a space that is not quite home can be for a budding drama director and a cast of actors looking to flex their acting muscles in the classically cool Chekhovian style. Key explains that Kyle Lemieux of the Dallas Actor’s Lab approached him about directing a play as part of the Elevator Project that would see some of Dallas’s best underground (for lack of a better term; or literal in the case of Undermain) theater groups put on productions at the previously unavailable/unaffordable AT&T Performing Arts Center. Lemieux and the DAL are known for intimate, actor-driven plays, and wanted a characteristically DAL performance to fit in the Wyly.
After writing the piece I went to opening night (Feb. 6) and loved the performance. The living room setup, the intimacy of the actors sweating as much as the audience in that confined space, the whispers and the shouting mingling in a woozy haze of ennui was spot-on. I loved it. After that performance, the show’s Artistic Director & the head of the Dallas Actors’ Lab (and the actor who played the hunk of a doctor, Astrov), Kyle Lemieux, asked me if I’d like to lead a Q&A after an upcoming performance. And so this Sunday night, come see me & a bunch of professional actors talk about translation & adaptation, Annie Baker’s dialog & how it compares to other versions of Chekhov, and the cool chance to perform an intimate indie theater staging of a Chekhov classic in a unique space inside the otherwise-gargantuan Wyly Theater. It will be a great time. All info below:
Following the Sunday, February 15th 7PM performance of Uncle Vanya the Lab will host a post-show discussion with special guest Will Evans, Executive Director of Deep Vellum Publishing!
Performances of Uncle Vanya continue!
See why the Dallas Morning News calls it “another stand-out for the Elevator Project”! Tickets are selling fast! Reserve your tickets here or by calling (214) 871-5000!
$10 student rush tickets are available 90 minutes before each performance at the Wyly Theatre Box Office.
In other non-theater related news, copies of The Art of Flight will be delivered early next week. Review copies will be send first, subscriber copies at the end of the week or early the week after. And remember, we’re throwing a birthday party for Sergio Pitol on his 82nd birthday, March 18 at the Wild Detectives, the day after The Art of Flight, Pitol’s first book in English, will be released. The book’s translator, George Henson, will be defending his dissertation, which this translation is part of, a couple days before the reading, and so he and I will lead a conversation, a reading, and a massive celebration in Pitol’s life, in this work, in George’s remarkable translation, and in George’s undoubtedly successful PhD defense!!! Join us March 18 at the best place in Dallas, period, The Wild Detectives. It will be a party.
In other fun news, Jón Gnarr’s The Indian has been sent off to print! We should get copies the first week of March! Up next…Anne Garréta’s Sphinx, about a week behind!
And for those who were lucky enough to attend Winter Institute in Asheville, I hope you all had the chance to visit Malaprop’s, one of the finest bookstores in North Carolina, and truly the creme de la creme among bookstores in the entire country. And for those who went, perhaps you noticed our friend Justin Souther’s staff recommendations shelf, featuring four of the finest books you’ll see anywhere by publishers that are peers & inspirations. And I can’t state enough how grateful I am for the support of booksellers just like Justin, who love great books, who aren’t afraid to read the world, and who put these books before readers. A Staff Pick at a store like Malaprop’s means EVERYTHING to me (and not just because I’m a native North Carolinian and love to see a book I’ve published on sale in my beloved home state!), especially as a startup, but not only—this is the platonic ideal of the indie publisher-indie bookstore relationship, and booksellers like Justin make it all happen for us, forever pushing us forward, giving us the inspiration & strength to go out & sign ever better, ever more ambitious books, because we know we have an army of support behind us in the form of indie booksellers. Justin, thank you!
And if you don’t think that these types of recommendations are the most important way to contextualize a book for readers to understand, to help guide them towards making the right decision to read good books, look at this display from the Foyle’s flagship bookstore in Charing Cross in the center of London, provided by Gary Perry, the Assistant Head of Fiction for the store. LOOK AT THAT SELECTION OF BOOKS!! THAT IS UNBELIEVABLE! FOUR TRANSLATIONS BY FOUR OF THE BEST PUBLISHERS IN THE WORLD, OUR INSPIRATIONS!! Archipelago, And Other Stories, us, Portobello (that Han Kang book, The Vegetarian, is one of the best I’ve read in a long time, thanks to Deborah Smith’s amazing translation from the Korean), all those books are AMAZING, and if I went back in time to being a reader, those are four of the exact books I would want to read, hand-selected by a bookseller who not only gets it but who really cares about only the best literature for readers. Gary, THANK YOU!
More photos from the wild…Carmen Boullosa is halfway through her West Coast tour that kicked off Tuesday in Los Angeles with a reading at Skylight Books (which used to be my neighborhood bookstore when I lived on Charles Bukowski’s old street, Carlton Way, in east Hollywood…this pic sent over from our friends at Unnamed Press):
Carmen followed up the LA reading with a flight to the Bay Area for readings and discussions with students and professors at Cal State-East Bay in Hayward on the 11th and at UC-Berkeley the afternoon of the 12th before heading into San Francisco for a reading at the legendary City Lights Bookstore with Scott Esposito. And before her reading, City Lights interviewed Carmen, “5 Questions with Carmen Boullosa,” a great read, here’s a small, personal anecdote as an excerpt:
Carmen Boullosa: I went to City Lights during my very first “honeymoon” (even though we weren’t married–we were madly in love– it counts as a real honeymoon), many, many years ago (1976?). City Lights got imprinted on my memory with an incomparable glamor: love, desire, fear … youth … and the turmoil I was in. It’s all I remember, as if I’d never been there before. In a way, it breaks my heart to return.
Scott has interviewed Carmen before at Center for the Art of Translation event, is a true master of literary criticism and a damn good dude, and who has been tremendously helpful to Deep Vellum from the start, helping us out with marketing as well as setting up the bookstore readings on Carmen’s west coast tour. We couldn’t do this without him. Here he is with Carmen, live and in person in the wild (photo taken by an old, old friend and Deep Vellum supporter, dear Suejean Kim):
Carmen is reading as I write this at UC-Santa Cruz, and after her reading and lunch with students and professors today she gets a much-needed restful weekend off in beautiful Santa Cruz before flying up to Portland on Monday for a reading at the legendary Powell’s City of Books, then to the University of Oregon on Tuesday, and finishing up her tour Wednesday in Seattle at the remarkable Elliott Bay Book Company. Go to the events, and send us photos of Carmen! And go to your local bookstore, indie or otherwise, and send us photos of Deep Vellum books in stock.
These photos of our books “in the wild” not only make my day every time I see them, but also remind us all that we’re part of a huge and complementary ecosystem, we all need each other: indie publishers, indie bookstores, and the readers who support indie bookstores & publishers & read good books & love to be a part of a community of readership for the best books in the world. And plus, these pictures will help us build a Deep Vellum Readers’ Army. And if there’s some kind of critical mass maybe I’ll print some shirts and send them to subscribers and those from far away who buy our books in places like Elliott Bay, City Lights, or your own local indie haunt. And if your favorite bookstore doesn’t stock Deep Vellum yet, ask them to. Every bookstore that stocks Texas: The Great Theft so far has had to reorder copies, they fly off the shelves. Just ask Justin at Malaprop’s in Asheville, Carlos at The Wild Detectives in Dallas, Paul at City Lights in San Francisco, Jeremy at Brazos in Houston, Sarah at McNally Jackson in NYC, Gary at the Foyle’s flagship in London…these are some of the greatest bookstores in the world, this isn’t a Texas-specific book, our books are meant for the entire world to enjoy. Join the party!!