Reflecting on the year, and looking ahead

Santiago del Fosco in ‘Ceremonias Pandémicas’

As 2020 draws to a close, the team Out of the Wings reflects on a year like no other, and looks forward to a 2021 that, come what may, will see our work continue.

Our monthly meet-and-reads are the backbone of our work and continued throughout 2020, moving to Zoom in March and gathering new friends and colleagues from around the world along the way.  Beginning in January with the contemporary Chilean play ‘You Shall Love’ by Pablo Manzi, translated by Camila Ymay González, and closing in December with ‘The Interview’ by Brazilian writer Samir Yazbek, translated by Marco Aurélio Nunes, Out of the Wings has gathered to read and discuss 11 plays, from Chile, Spain, Nicaragua, Brazil, Peru and Argentina; our virtual meet-and-reads even featured in The Stage.

Translations first showcased at our annual Festival went on to have further lives in 2020.  The Latin American Season at the Actor’s Centre, curated by Untold Collectiv, featured ‘Freddie’ (OOTW2019) by Abilio Estévez, translated by Kate Eaton and directed by Camila Ymay González, and ‘The Blind One and the Mad One’ (OOTW2016) by Claudia Barral, produced by Foreign Affairs and translated and directed by Almiro Andrade; Sophie Stevens’ translation of ‘Her Open Eyes’ (OOTW2019) by Raquel Diana was published in The Mercurian; and in Las Vegas, Gigi Guizado continued translating the works of Colombian radio drama pioneer Rafael Guizado (OOTW2017 & 19) for The Lab LV.

March saw a joyous gathering at the Omnibus Theatre:  ‘An Evening with Out of the Wings’ was a chance for us to share our practice in a celebratory mood, talking about our work and hosting two festive, interactive mass table-reads of plays in translation from Uruguay and Brazil.  This was the last time in 2020 that we gathered in person; but it will not be the last one ever!

‘An Evening with Out of the Wings’ at the Omnibus Theatre (Photo: Elton Uliana)

Starting in the spring, ‘Poor Connection’ saw Out of the Wings participate in a major playwriting and translation project in Argentina in association with AATI, the Argentine association of translation and interpreting:  beginning with a showcase of extracts in the summer and culminating in weekly online readings, the project involved dozens of creatives producing 10 brand-new plays in English translation exploring the themes of isolation and the need for communication amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August we kicked back with our director Catherine Boyle and fellow theatre translators Jeremy Tiang and Noah Birsted-Breen for a virtual cup of tea, discussing all things theatre translation from Chinese and Russian as well as from our usual languages. In October, we were delighted to be part of the American Literary Translators Association’s annual conference, ‘In Between’, sharing our work and experiences with colleagues worldwide.  

In November, we celebrated the launch of our member Rosa Andújar’s book, ‘The Greek Trilogy of Luis Alfaro’, and teamed up for the first time with ScriptExtra at the University of East Anglia, for a mid-month reading of ‘La Florida’ by Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez (OOTW2017), translated by William Gregory.  And in December, our member Mary Ann Vargas (OOTW2016 & 18) was a special guest at ‘404 Error/Year Not Found’, an international festival of Ibero-American Dramaturgy in Confinement, hosted by Venezuela’s Skena Agrupación Teatral.

Mary Ann also curated an online, multinational project that would not have emerged were it nor for the pandemic, and which was seen by over 1000 viewers across the world: ‘Ceremonias Pandémicas’ was a response to the impossibility of gathering to share our work with live audiences. The three monologues, ‘Santa Cecilia’, ‘Freddie’ and ‘Tiny Man in a Bottle’, (from the collection ‘Ceremonias para actores desesperados’), were originally written by Cuban author and playwright Abilio Estévez as a response to a time of acute economic hardship and isolation in Cuba in the 1990s. The three plays, translated by Kate Eaton, were conceived to be viewed remotely, and were recorded by the actors in their separate spaces in London, Lima and Mexico City.

 … theatre and performance have the power to cross-over beyond screens, travelling impossible distances, arriving like a blow to our hearts and minds. Alfonso Santistevan

Irene Eyzaguirre, Ángel López-Silva and Beto Benites in ‘Ceremonias Pandémicas’

Despite all our achievements this year, 2020 did get the better of us in some respects and, like many others, we have seen our plans changed and postponed.  Originally planned for August 2020 at the Omnibus Theatre, our annual festival of play readings has been postponed.  We still plan to hold the festival as soon as we can, are monitoring things closely, and staying in regular contact with Omnibus so we can bring our annual celebration of theatre in translation back to audiences with renewed vigour.

We also remain committed to holding some other events planned for 2020 that we have had to postpone.  We were delighted to have received enthusiastic responses to our call-out for an event focussing on the work of Black playwrights from the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds and, although we were unable to hold this event as we had intended in December, we remain fully committed to holding the event in 2021 and hope to bring you more news of this very soon.

Similarly, work continues on the Out of the Wings Collection of published translations, in partnership with Inti Press.  Look out for news of these titles in the new year.

As we look to 2021, we will also continue our monthly meet-and-reads, for the time being on Zoom.  These monthly gatherings are the centre of our work.  We mean it when we say, ‘All are welcome’.  Attendance is free, and no Spanish or Portuguese is required; simply an interest in theatre and in sharing experiences, stories and practice across borders.   We also accept submissions for the monthly read all year round:  anyone who is working on, or who has completed, an English translation of a play from the Spanish- or Portuguese-speaking worlds is welcome to propose their translation for a table-read.  Please visit our FAQs for more information about this.

We are proud to have continued to find ways to meet, work, exchange and create during what has been the most challenging of years.  But none of this would be possible without the many friends, colleagues, collaborators and audiences who work with us, engage with us, and support us from throughout the world.

It only remains for us to wish each and every one of you good health and happiness as the year draws to a close. As a new year approaches, whatever it may hold, we take comfort in the many experiences of connection and creativity that all of you have been part of.

Andro Cowperthwaite in ‘Ceremonias Pandémicas’; crown of flowers by Angelina Dove.

Boas Festas, Felices Fiestas and Happy Holidays to you all,

Out of the Wings