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How do you say `Out damn spot' in Tlingit?

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.thestar.com/artsentertainment/article/188549 How do you say `Out damn spot in Tlingit? Theatre company tackles Macbeth in obscure Indian language
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2007
      http://www.thestar.com/artsentertainment/article/188549

      How do you say `Out damn spot' in Tlingit?

      Theatre company tackles Macbeth in obscure Indian language

      Mar 06, 2007 04:30 AM

      JUNEAU, Alaska–Jake Waid rubbed his bloodshot eyes, blankly stared at a
      script for Shakespeare's Macbeth, then resumed an unfamiliar struggle with
      a set of lines.

      "TlDeil tsu tlax yDei l kusheek'Deiyi yDe yageeyi kwasatDinch, ch'a aan
      yak'Dei," he read slowly of what would normally be, "So foul and fair a day
      I have not seen."

      Waid, a 31-year-old who has been acting since he was 15, faces his most
      daunting stage assignment to date: performing Shakespeare in Tlingit
      (pronounced klink-it), an Indian language unique to southeast Alaska and
      southwest British Columbia, and in which fewer than 300 people are fluent.
      Its words are difficult to translate into English sounds.

      The role calls for mastering new sets of pauses, sounds and pitches – first
      with his ears then with his voice – in delivering the lines. That's not
      all.

      He and 11 other Perseverance Theatre actors had less than one month to
      learn a story many knew by heart – but that was in English.

      "It takes 10 times longer to learn just one line," said Waid, who plays
      Macbeth and has performed Shakespeare in theatres worldwide with various
      production groups since he was a teenager.

      "As far as the structure of the language and the grammar, it's still a
      mystery."

      He reprises his role as Macbeth for Perseverance, which was founded in 1979
      in this capital city of 30,000. It's also where Paula Vogel's 1998 Pulitzer
      Prize-winning play, How I Learned to Drive, was written and developed.

      Since the early February start of rehearsals, actors, stage crew and
      directors have been on a harried pace to prepare for a March 8-18
      engagement of Macbeth at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American
      Indian in Washington, D.C. It wasn't just actors facing challenges.

      Costumes had to be redesigned and stages rebuilt to accommodate this third
      and final Tlingit production by the Alaskan theatre group.

      A truck carrying the stage sets was put on a barge – no roads lead out of
      the Alaska state capital – then driven cross-country and rebuilt in time
      for final rehearsals.

      Meanwhile, cast members were pulling all-nighters learning to speak Tlingit
      with integrity, honouring not only the language's heritage but the play's
      adaptation.

      Twice in 2004, Perseverance actors performed Tlingit versions of Macbeth,
      but it was retold primarily in English and featured indigenous Native
      American dances, music and clothing.

      But this time the 12-member cast, whose ages range from 15 to 42, has
      agreed to perform most of the play in Tlingit.

      "It's like running a marathon, without training for it," said actor Ishmael
      Hope, who plays Malcolm, the son of King Duncan who is killed by Macbeth.
      "But we're doing the work to make it happen.

      "None of us is going to sound like a fluent speaker, because no matter how
      meticulous we are, it's a difficult language. But we'll still be able to
      convey meaning."

      Director Anita Maynard-Losh first developed the idea of producing a Tlingit
      version of Macbeth while living in the predominantly Tlingit village of
      Hoonah, about 50 miles west of Juneau, 25 years ago. She conducted artists
      workshops throughout Alaska when she began seeing connections between
      Tlingit culture and Macbeth: the relationships with the supernatural and
      the history of fierce warfare found both in culture and play.

      The first production, performed in Juneau, was almost entirely in English,
      as was a subsequent showing in Anchorage, both three years ago.

      This time, Maynard-Losh wanted to illustrate how Macbeth puts individual
      gain ahead of the good for the whole, breaking Tlingit tenets. So when
      characters adhere to tribal values, cast members speak Tlingit; when they
      espouse individual beliefs, they speak Shakespearean English.

      For Waid's Macbeth, this occasionally means pursuing a seamless segue from
      English to Tlingit and later back to English during the same scene.

      "It's no judgment on English speakers; it's just the concept of the play,"
      Waid said. "It's still one of the demands of the play. Once it's all in
      there, they are all just lines."

      Associated Press
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