Professor of Theatre
At Knox Since: 1998
Knox College professor of theatre Neil Blackadder likes to "really get
inside a play."
He describes Knox as "a really good place for me to expand the range of what I do as a teacher and as a scholar-artist."
The recent recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, Blackadder will translate three contemporary German-language plays into English. The foundation, based at Brown University in Rhode Island, selects about 10 scholars each year to receive the prestigious fellowships to fund projects in selected fields of study.
Blackadder will translate three works by Swiss playwright Lukas Bärfuss: The Test, Malaga, and Alice's Trip to Switzerland. He hopes the translations will result in theatrical productions of those plays in the United States and Great Britain.
"I see myself partly as serving to broaden the horizons of American and British theatre by introducing them to work that they're not familiar with, and that in certain ways is distinct from the work that's produced by British and American writers," he said. "What I like about this playwright is he deals with topics that may derive from the Swiss context, but they're the kinds of issues that American and British audiences are likely to be interested in, too."
Blackadder's translation of Bärfuss' The Sexual Neuroses of our Parents was produced in London and New York, and it was published in the United States and the United Kingdom.
He also directed a Knox College production of his own translation of the German-language play Rosa and Blanca by Rebekka Kricheldorf.
"What's been nice is that teaching playwriting and translating plays are two things that have meshed very well because they both require you to understand a play from the inside, from the author's point of view," he said. "So I feel like the teaching has enhanced the translation, and vice versa."
Blackadder said his translation work provides him with "an alertness to the nuances of languages," which influences his interactions with Knox students when he teaches them in class or directs them in a play.
While directing rehearsals for a spring 2011 play, Exit the King, Blackadder frequently referred to the work's original French text. As a result, he said, "I am able to explain to the students something that sort of lies behind the English, that might not be immediately apparent in the translation, but that is apparent in the French."
"In a more general sense, I think, (translation work) affects my work with the students in terms of the importance of that level of detail, of really getting into the nuances -- of what difference it makes if it's this word or that word, how the actor might deal with it differently, depending which word it is."