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"In Sundry Languages" with Art Babayants

March 31st 2017, 3:30-5:30pm

"In Sundry Languages": Multilingual Audiences and Diversity Work with Art Babayants

The artistic practice at the centre of this research involved 25 professional and amateur performers, both mono and multilingual, who were engaged in a six-week creation period of devising scenes in their dominant, non-dominant, and unfamiliar languages. The devised scenes were later compiled into a multilingual show entitled “In Sundry Languages” (ISL) and performed to a multilingual audience on May 15 and 16, 2015 at the Robert Gill Theatre at the University of Toronto. The audience response was documented through 182 post-performance audience surveys.

From the audience research perspective, the study demonstrates that multilingual audiences can both appreciate and enjoy deciphering untranslated stage multilingualism. The analysis of the audience surveys shows that during the multilingual performance, some audience members experienced a particular kind of inter-audience dynamics—the dynamics of negotiating power—the power of knowing or not knowing languages, atypical for English Canadian theatre. Thus, the potential of untranslated multilingual dramaturgy may lie in its ability to shift power from those who only speak a majority language (in the case of Toronto, English) to those who are fluent in minority languages. The study proposes seeing multilingual dramaturgy as “diversity work” (Ahmed, 2014), which can confront the monolingual paradigms of Toronto’s, and other major urban centres’, mainstream theatre, pushing against existing language hierarchies and allowing for a broader representation of multilinguals and multilingualism.

This month's agenda focused on spectatorship and multiple languages and the spectre of "the relational" in performance. The working group explored both "In Saundry Languages" and the article "Acts of Spectating: The Dramaturgy of the Audience’s Experience in Contemporary Theatre" by Peter M. Boenisch

Presented at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse.

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