Edward III, a (new) play by William Shakespeare, in a modern verse translation by Octavio Solis
On March 27, 2017, Ashland New Plays Festival presented Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Play on! translation of Edward III by William Shakespeare, translated into modern verse by Octavio Solis. The performance was made possible by a generous grant from the Hitz Foundation.
Solis is one of 36 playwrights, each paired with a dramaturg, hard at work on modern verse translations of 39 plays attributed to Shakespeare. Click here to listen to Solis and his dramaturg Kimberly Colburn talk about their work on Edward III.
Click here to learn more about the Play on! initiative from Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Hitz Foundation.
By William Shakespeare
In a modern verse translation by Octavio Solis
Dramaturg Kimberly Colburn
Directed by Dawn Monique Williams
Underwritten by the Hitz Foundation
Monday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m.
SOU Music Recital Hall, 405 S Mountain Ave, Ashland
$20 – $25, reserved seating, sold online and at the door, subject to availability
The story of Edward III follows the personal and political struggles of pivotal characters at the start of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France in the 14thcentury. The five-act play features the English king’s love for a married countess, brutal battles for power in France, and personal struggles of honoring oneself versus honoring a king or country.
ANPF’s dramatic reading performance featured outstanding performances by our incredible cast, including:
Edward – Armando Duran
Understanding Shakespeare through a Modern Verse Translation
A contemporary playwright translates Edward III for today’s audiences, to be performed as a dramatic reading March 27 in Ashland, Oregon
By Kara Q Lewis
Afternoon light filters over the laptop of playwright Octavio Solis, who focuses on the screen, puzzling out ways to decipher a difficult verse from William Shakespeare’s play Edward III. After getting sick two weeks earlier, Solis began working from bed. His wife teases him about not using his brand new writing studio. He works intensely and relentlessly: “I get obsessive about it,” he says, “I work on it ‘til 1 or 2 in the morning and then it’s the first thing I do when I wake up.” He continues:
“I’ve enjoyed every second of it. It taps into the part of my brain that likes puzzles. I’m decoding something really intricate and special. The process has revealed Shakespeare’s craft as a writer. I’m getting into Shakespeare’s head, like when I try to think like Will Shortz so I can solve New York Times crosswords.”
Solis is part of Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s project Play on! 36 playwrights translate Shakespeare. The playwrights have been paired with a dramaturg and commissioned to create modern verse translations of plays attributed to Shakespeare. The project aims to “bring fresh voices and perspectives to the rigorous work of translation” while making “39 unique side-by-side companion translations of Shakespeare’s plays that are both performable and extremely useful reference texts for both classrooms and productions.” Solis’ version of Edward III will be presented as a staged reading by Ashland New Plays Festival on March 27.
The Play on! project comes with controversy. For some, Shakespeare’s words should remain unaltered. The belief is that today’s audiences should intuit and grasp one of Shakespeare’s play’s meaning from skilled actors and directors in its original language. Another issue raised is one of funding. As one New York Times op-ed contributor, James Shapiro, writes, “I’d prefer to see [the project] spend its money…enabling those 36 promising American playwrights to devote themselves to writing the next Broadway hit.”
The director of the project, Dr. Lue Douthit, has worked at OSF for over 20 years and says she is frustrated as a theatergoer. She understands the meaning of Shakespeare’s works, having discussed, written about, studied, annotated, and adapted the bard’s plays. And yet, she gets lost in the language. In a HowlRound forum, she writes: “I can hear it at 16 rpms, but not often at the zippy 78 speed that the language is designed to run.”
Solis responds to the controversy: “I understand why this project exists,” he says. “In scholarship, [the language] feeds the scholar’s soul to read and study it. But in performance there are some elements that are over our heads no matter what.”
For instance, he explains that there are many references and metaphors from Shakespeare’s time that have lost their impact, like those related to Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the lives of Roman generals. In one specific case with Edward III, Solis had to research the identity of “the queen of shades,” and upon discovering it, re-wrote the line to provide context that she is “Diana of the moon…”
Sidestepping the discussions and lively debate over the translations, we come face to face with the playwrights and their work. Solis is enthusiastic and passionate about this project: honoring Shakespeare’s poetry and getting to understand the preeminent playwright’s motives in order to clarify and strengthen his play’s power for today’s audiences.
‘Translated’ Version of Edward III Works Well
“Performed by a group of excellent actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the translation to modern verse by award-winning playwright Octavio Solis is a lyrical, sensitive work by a gifted dramatist. Solis has clearly not cut corners in his research into the play. His sharp and inspired version is illuminating, accessible and cleverly executed.”
There are many articles related to Play on! and their modern verse translations of Shakespeare.
Check out “Translating Shakespeare? 36 Playwrights Taketh the Big Risk” by Jennifer Schuessler.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Artistic Director Bill Rauch writes about the innovative and controversial project on American Theatre Magazine’s website, “Why We’re Translating Shakespeare”.
Scott Kaiser, playwright and Director of Company Development at OSF, talks with Oregon Public Broadcasting about the translations (click here if video does not load):
A new Shakespeare play? Technology helps reveal Shakespeare authorship: “Plagiarism Software Finds a New Shakespeare Play” by Gaëlle Faure, TIME Magazine.
Play on! director Lue Douthit describes the innovative and controversial project in “Spelunking with Shakespeare” on HowlRound.com.