Live translation offers inclusive performances for Inwood play

A Barn Play / Photo: Mikiodo
Photo Courtesy UP Theater Company


A theater company in Inwood is offering live English-Spanish translation during three showings of an upcoming production to offer an inclusive experience for Spanish-speakers in the neighborhood.

Three showings of UP Theater Company’s production of Lizzie Donahue’s “A Barn Play” will feature translators who will translate the lines of the dark comedy as they are being spoken through headsets that audience members can wear, said Vicente Villalba, president of Dynamics Multilingual Services. Villalba and his company will be translating for the play.

The play will run at the Good Shepherd/Inwood Academy Space at 108  Cooper St. on Wednesdays through Saturdays from March 18 to April 4, with live translations available at the Thursday shows – March 19 and 26 and April 2.

UP officials think it is important to have Spanish translation available because the play, which is centered around a group of farm animals trying to put on a play of their own, has themes connecting to immigrant treatment and family separation, said Peter Michael Marino, associate producer for PM2 Entertainment.

“I was drawn to the subversive way it approaches the issue of family separation which, for our community, is an extremely urgent concern,” said James Bosley, UP’s artistic director and Inwood native.

Villalba’s company typically works translating for conferences or schools, providing translations only a few seconds behind the original speaker, he said. The U.N. uses very similar translators in their meetings to help officials from different countries communicate.

The simultaneous translation services involve FM transmitters that carry the translators’ voice to a headset worn by audience members, Villalba said. Although the translators at “A Barn Play” will only be translating to Spanish, Dynamics has translators for 13 languages and the transmitters can be tuned between different channels with different languages.

Because the translators have to quickly translate speech with emotion and emphasis, Villalba thinks that he and his translators are a good fit for translating plays, even though they have only worked with a theater company once before this, he said. Translating a play requires their usual skillset, but with a greater degree of creativity.

“We become almost like actors,” Villalba said.

At the request of the play’s producer, there will be two male and one female translators at the three showings of the play that will be translated, Villalba said. He plans to personally translate for at least two of the shows.

Villalba grew up in the Inwood neighborhood, so helping the community there is important to him, he said.

Tickets for “A Barn Play” are $25, or $15 for seniors and students with a student ID.