No one debates that Shakespeare is one of the greatest writers in the English language. What is debatable is just how much today’s audiences actually understand that language.
“I’ll be really honest to say I can’t understand all of it all the time,” says Lue Douthit, the director of literary development and dramaturgy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival—and she makes her living studying theater.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced today it plans to bridge that comprehension gap with an unprecedented project underwritten by the foundation of tech entrepreneur David Hitz. “Play On” will commission 36 dramatists to translate the Bard’s entire canon of 38 plays into contemporary modern English. Ranging from award-winning playwrights to up-and-comers and translators, the writers represent a wide diversity of voices: more than half are women and more than half people of color.
“The goal is to keep all of the structure of the language intact, and the setting intact,” says artistic director Bill Rauch. “But to actually take words that may have lost their meaning or may have different meanings today and look at translating those words.”