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SPRING 2009 199 The Lark Theatre’s US-México Word Exchange Patricia Ybarra The Lark Theatre’s Word Exchange (El Trueque de Palabras) is a “10 day residency which of theatrical dialogue between Mexican playwrights, directors, actors and the Lark community,” directed by playwright Andrea Thome, and produced by John Eisner (US-México Playwright Exchange). The program is co-sponsored by the Lark and FONCA / Conaculta, making it a transnational private-public arts collaboration. The main focus of the residency is the translation of four new Mexican works into American English for American audiences, for whom they are presented at the end of the residency. The program officially began in October 2006, however the Lark has been collaborating with Mexican playwrights since 2000, when the company commissioned a translation of Sabina Berman’s Happy New Century, Doktor Freud by Kristin Nigro. Caridad Svich’s translation of Silvia Peláez’s Fever at 107 Degrees was also completed before the official commencement of the program. In 2006, the program translated five plays — four from Spanish to English — and one from English to Spanish. The plays translated into English were Adela y Juana by Verónica Musalem Moreno, translated by Caridad Svich; H by Richard Viqueira translated by Andrea Thome; Papá está en Atlántida by Javier Malpica, translated by Jorge Cortñias; and Acontecimientos con aparteds de la vida by Alberto Villareal, translated by Andy Bragen. In addition, Pleasure and Pain by Chantal Bilodeau was translated into Spanish by Silvia Paleaz. In 2007, four plays were translated into Spanish — La tristeza de los citricos by Verónica Brujiero, translated byAndy Bragen; Van Gogh en Nueva York by Jorge Celaya, translated by Migdalia Cruz; Desiertos by HugoAlfredo Hinojosa Díaz, translated by Caridad Svich; and De príncipes , princesas y otro bichos by Paola Izquierdo, translated by Susana Cook. 200 LATIN AMERICAN THEATRE REVIEW The translation process is extensive. The residency begins with a rough translation all four plays completed before each text receives ten days of attention from directors, actors, writers and translators.As most of the production team is in the room during each rehearsal, the work is collaborative and the process is open to discovery. While the translators are fully bilingual, the playwrights, directors and actors have varying levels of language facility in their non-native languages, which leads to a multilingual rehearsal room conducive to questioning and honing cultural translations. The Lark’s translators are playwrights themselves, many of whom are Latino/a, and write bilingually and/or biculturally, making them especially apt intermediaries for the Mexican playwrights’ work. The November 2008 Word Exchange included four plays: The Camels (Los Camellos) by Luis Ayhllón, translated by Maria Alexandria Beech; Decomposition (Descomposición) by José Alfonso Cárcamo, translated by Mariana Carreño King; Maids of Honor (Las Meninas) by Ernesto Anaya, translated by Migdalia Cruz; and Yamaha 300 by Cutberto López Reyes, translated by Mando Alvarado. While the subject matter and styles of the plays were diverse, each one translated well into U.S. cultural frames. The relevance of these pieces denies the usual claim that Mexican plays that deal with social and political issues particular to Mexico do not make sense in a US reality. Los Camellos is a play that centers on a middle class family that plays itself on a stage four days a week. Surrounded by barbed wire, the family must choose whether to “talk to each other or try to escape” (US-México Playwright Exchange). Los Camellos resonated with the reality T.V. culture so prevalent in the US in the contemporary era. While the playwright did not intend this analogy –– and in fact the play’s exploration of the inability of the family to communicate due to their alienation from each other could in fact be said to be “universal” –– the metatheatrical elements of the piece seemed designed for audiences used to the conventions of reality T.V., making this Mexican play quite accessible for a US audience. Decomposition also resonated despite the disparity in class politics in the US and Mexico. Decomposition tells the story of two friends from their teen years to middle adulthood — one...


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