More On Berta

9 02 2008

I’ve posted the flyer for Priscilla’s performance of Berta, but it doesn’t really tell you what you should know about this story. Sure, it’s a 13th century folk tale, written down by a minstrel (allegedly) for posterity. But what the flyer doesn’t mention is that Priscilla first translated the story from old French. That’s like trying to read Chaucer and then translate it to modern English.

So she translated from old French, then found an unopened book containing a new version, printed in the 1890’s. At that time the pages were printed on larger sheets of paper, which were folded to book size and sewn into the binding. Priscilla discovered the book at a Belgian online bookseller and realized when it arrived that the pages needed to be cut. Since she’d never seen an unopened book of this age, she had to research to learn how to cut the pages correctly.

Once she finally opened the book, she read the modern version, in contemporary French, and set about the process of translating a written French story into an hour-long verbal story. Having witnessed a practice session, I want to point out that she tells the entire story standing and without notes. When questioned about how she remembers the whole thing, she explains that she imagines the story, in color, in all its detail, as she’s telling it. I can only guess that it must be like translating a movie to deaf people while it’s running in a different language.

From my perspective, the experience was similar to watching a spellbinding movie. When I see a really good movie it takes a little while for me to get back to my own reality. I’ve forgotten about my world and been lost in someone else’s. That’s what Berta is like.

So, if you can spare an hour on Friday, February 15, you’ll be richly rewarded.




2 responses

9 02 2008

Hey, thanks! I also wanted to add how incredibly satisfying it is to work on such a meaty story, in hopes that the audience will have a good experience listening to it.

10 02 2008

Gr, I wish I could see it! One of the many times I hate how far New York is from Kansas.

Break a leg, Priscilla!

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