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Senior and student director Katherine Denton held audi­tions this week for the world pre­miere of a new edition of the play “Woyzeck,” written by Georg Büchner in the 1830s. She is casting  a new version of the German play, selecting roles for the appar­ently schiz­o­phrenic Woyzeck, his wife, doctor, com­manding officer and others with the help of stu­dents and Hillsdale faculty.

Not only will the trans­lation and pre­sen­tation be a world pre­miere, but much of the music, set, and chore­og­raphy is largely original to the show. The play is set in a car­nival, the only con­sistent scene across the man­u­scripts of the play.

The original play was incom­plete upon the death of the author and exists in mul­tiple con­fusing, frag­mentary forms that various directors and play­wrights have reor­ga­nized and inter­preted in many dif­ferent ways. Denton chose to create an original trans­lation of the play for her senior project rather than bending to the cre­ative vision of another editor.

“I picked the show last spring, and I’ve been working on it since May,” Denton said. “I’ve read several trans­la­tions, but a lot of them are really edi­torial, focusing on the translator’s view. So I read and read and read and I looked at what I liked and dis­liked, then I went to George [Angell, pro­fessor of theatre] and to talk to him about it, and he said, ‘Well, it looks like you need to do a trans­lation.’”

After that, Denton approached fellow senior Anna Potrafke, who is from Germany, and asked her if she could work with her on the trans­lation. Since then, they pro­duced in col­lab­o­ration a literal trans­lation of the play. They pol­ished this trans­lation with outside assis­tance from Assistant Pro­fessor of German Fred Yaniga.

“She [Denton] wanted to do her own adaption of the order and meaning of the play, so we approached how to do it on our own,” Potrafke said. “After I wrote a literal trans­lation, she had an idea for words and phrases, and we talked about how to adapt it so it had the sense of the original German too. She didn’t want to butcher it into sub­mission but to make sure it flows in the English and is true to the German.”

After com­mitting to the project, Denton worked on devel­oping her German so she could more fully under­stand the original text. She also worked closely with her dra­maturg, junior Aaron Pomerantz, who is researching the context and com­posing much of the music for the per­for­mance.

In addition to assis­tance musi­cally and lin­guis­ti­cally, Denton reached out to senior Angela Pearsall to help her develop the movement of the play. It will deviate from realism with a very limited set, requiring actors to fill the void with their own motions.

In many regards, the play is a pre­cursor to much of modern theater. It focuses on the unreal, pre­dicting later devel­op­ments in psy­chology and under­standing the brain, and it verges on spec­tacle, according to Pomerantz. He said the play basi­cally diag­noses schiz­o­phrenia before it is even rec­og­nized and diag­nosed offi­cially, so the play is unlike most of its time. It address the question of what it means to be human and how humans deserve to be treated.

“It’s kind of a big deal because it is a world pre­miere of a play, and I and Renée [Sur­prenant, Hillsdale theatre department’s new theater tech­nician] and others have read the play in trans­lation before, and this is the first that has ever made sense,” Pomerantz said. “It departs from realism, which is Hillsdale’s focus; it really dove­tails from that. I’m really excited because it is going to be like nothing else we’ve seen lately. This is a big deal, as Hillsdale, this tiny college, is doing some­thing truly unique.”