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Fragil! / Fragile!

One play and two German premieres

by Petra Kohse

Osnabrück/Cologne, May 2009. If you search online for information on Tena Štivičić's play Fragile! you'll come across the website of the TKO Theatre in Cologne. You'll also soon realise that this play, which has been announced a German premiere as part of the Spieltriebe 3 festival in Osnabrück in September, has already been performed in German in October 2007. Evidently the premiere in Cologne didn't count as a first performance. In his interview with from the 30th of April, Holger Schultze, Artistic Director of the Theatre Osnabrück, assumes that it is because the translation hadn't been authorised. As a matter of fact, a translator wasn't mentioned at all on their website.

The impression of an unauthorised adoption is a misleading one. Nada Kokotovic, artistic director of the TKO Theatre (together with Nedja Osman; TKO stands for Theatre Kokotovic Osman), who was most willing to supply the missing information, has added it to the website. "Fragile!" was performed under the German title "Fragil!" in the translated version by Anne Simmering and Yasmin Canli. It was staged in the Tiefrot Theatre in Cologne and directed by Nedjo Osman, Dijana Grilc, Yasmin Canli, Jessica Walther-Gabory, Andreas Ladwig and Aydin Isik. The play was a production of the TKO Theatre, which is a group of theatre creators who are very interested in ex-Yugoslavian topics.

Not an uncommon procedure in Eastern Europe

"We'd known the text for a while" said Nada Kokotovic on the phone, "and we got in contact with Tena Štivičić through her father. She agreed to us producing the play in German, so we turned to her agents and acquired the rights for ten performances. That is the usual amount of performances for Off-theatre." Anne Simmering, a friend who is an actress and has lived in England for some time, translated most of the scenes. Yasmin Canli from the Ensemble then took over the rest.

According to Kokotovic, the Theatre then offered the translated version to Henschel Schauspiel and publishing company Drei Masken, but Austrian publishing company Kaiser was quicker and took over the German rights of the original version directly from the English agency Curtis Brown. Kaiser then assigned the translation to Karen Witthuhn and handed it in to the Heidelberg play market, where "Fragile!" (this time with an English title) won the European Author Prize. The publisher Walter Kootz said that the publishing company was unaware of the translation by Anne Simmering and Yasmin Canli and had assumed that the version from Cologne was a translation from Croatian, a translation of a translation, which the author of the Croation version, Tena Štivičić herself, had not agreed to. "Fragile!" was declared a German premiere by publishing company Kaiser.

"This isn't an uncommon procedure in Eastern Europe" says Walter Kootz, in a phone call. "Translations are often not licensed. Every licence only applies to a certain amount of performances." Now that "Fragile!" has a publisher in Germany, no more translations are allowed. The version by Anne Simmering and Yasmin Canli is also not allowed to be shown any more.

The original is distinguished in both versions

Nada Kokotovic can't understand how the productions of the TKO could possibly be seen as inappropriate. "We were continuously in contact with Tena Štivičić, she even wanted to come to the premiere but couldn't, so someone else from the family came. The translation from Cologne and Karen Witthuhn's version don't overlap each other much. The translation by Witthuhn has a more flexible language, the images are slightly freer and the characters' mode of speech is of a colourful timbre rather than being weak. Moreover, the differences lie within a framework that the theatre could adapt in the case of a production. The English version is well distinguished in both translations.

The German premiere of "Fragile!", which will be staged by Corinna Sommerhäuser in the Winkelhausen barracks in Osnabrück on September 4th 2009, is, to be exact, a german premiere of Karen Witthuhn's edition. If publishing company Kaiser ended their agreement with the Curtis Brown agency and either lost or returned the rights, more translations – perhaps with the german title "Zerbrechlich" (Frail)? – could follow and be performed. It is however unlikely that they will pass as German premieres after all that's happened.

Read more about Tena Štivičić.


Comments (1)Add Comment
Hinweis des Verlags
written by Walter Kootz, Kaiser Verlag Wien, 01. October 2009
Es ist Tena Stivicic und uns wichtig zu betonen, dass die Autorin die Aufführung des TKO nicht als unangemessen angesehen hat. Zum damaligen Zeitpunkt waren diese Übersetzung und diese Umsetzung ihres Theaterstücks notwendig, konsequent und hilfreich für ihre Karriere.
Die Notwendigkeit einer weiteren und neueren Übersetzung aus dem Englischen, die näher an den Intentionen der Autorin liegt und jetzt vom Kaiser Verlag, Wien vertrieben wird, hat sich in Folge ergeben und führte zu der beschriebenen endgültigen und letztendlichen Autorisierung.

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