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Certainly not lost in Translations – Interim play tackles communication and colonialism


The St. Olaf theater department accomplished a sweeping, emotive rendition of Brian Friel’s play, “Translations.” Set in Ireland in 1833, “Translations” centers on the members of a rural school as they respond to a British military initiative to Anglicize the Gaelic names of locations while constructing a new map of Ireland. By exploring themes of communication, national identity, the price of colonisation and unlikely love, “Translations” left the audience with much to ponder.

With three acts and a two-and-a-half-hour run time, “Translations” was long, but I am not complaining. I actually applaud the choice not to cut content from such a carefully-wrought script. It is certainly a slow burn, but the cast made the high ratio of dialogue to action work to their advantage. Matthew Humason ’21 gave a powerful and convincing performance that grounded the production. Bianca Davis ’21 and Asa Kienitz-Kincade ’22 set the tone of each scene with their impressive use of physicality.

For the production’s set, Todd Edwards designed an asymmetrical, two-level barn structure that added depth and dimension to Kelsey Theater’s typical proscenium stage and gave many opportunities to the actors and director to experiment with staging. The barn atmosphere was complimented and accentuated by Tyler Krohn’s ’21 sound design and designer Aimee Jillson’s period-specific costume choices. One particularly effective choice was the red uniforms of the British soldiers that – as there was no red present anywhere else in the scenery or costumes – made their invasive entrance much more powerful. Additionally, the overall success of the production could not have been achieved without the work of the visiting dialect coach Foster Johns of the Twin Cities, who helped the cast perfect their British and Irish dialects.

In an interim production, the whole process of putting on a play is condensed into one month. This creates a uniquely immersive opportunity, but it comes with challenges.
“It was like being in a theater company for a month for 8 hours a day,” Moses Young ’22 said. “It sounds exhausting, and while it was at times, I learned so much about the craft of theater and myself through this process.”

“I think the main takeaway from this show is to never forget who you are and where you come from.”
-Moses Young ’22

“Would highly recommend to anyone who’s thinking about it – it also helps to have the coolest people around you for a month,” Young continued.

“I think the main takeaway from this show is to never forget who you are and where you come from,” Young said. “It also puts a spotlight on how large of a role language has played in shaping cultures. It’s a beautiful, lyrical play whose importance cannot be understated.”

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