Interview with Italian Playwright Valeria Orani


How did you get started working with the Italian community in New York? 

I arrived in New York five years ago with the wish to connect Italian contempory culture to US and vice-versa.

It is a big challenge.

I’m Italian, I was born in Sardinia, a big and ancient island in the middle of the Mediterranean, plenty of beauty and ancient venues and rituals. I love my roots and my origin counts a lot in my vision of art and life. I started in theatre when I was very young, I feel theatre as home.


Why do you do the work that you do? What would you like our audiences to know about you and your work?

I became passionate about all things theatre since my teenage years. I was initially fascinated by what happened onstage, and then I became more and more interested in all the work that goes on backstage. Theatre production turned into a job when I was twenty years old, and since then, I was in charge of management, having to first focus on all organizational aspects, and then on production. Umanism was set up in New York City in 2015 and puts together two aspects of my job: planning projects on the bases of funds (including philanthropy) and the good quality agency services that I offer to cultural and creative businesses. 

Can you tell us more about the Italian & American Playwrights project?

Immediately after its setup, Umanism has worked side by side with Martin E. Segal Theatre Center of the Graduate Center of CUNY to develop a project whose objective has been the promotion of contemporary drama. Frank Hentschker and I develop the Italian Playwrights Project which has now come to its second edition and which includes a two-year period in which parts of the work of Italian playwrights are presented and read to the audience, then translated completely into English and finally published.

The Italian and American Playwrights Project supports workshops with Italian playwrights in US with the collaboration of American translators, actors, directors and vice-versa.

It also produces public presentations, readings, conversations with the authors both in Italy and in US. Last year we started a collaboration in London.

The initiative aims at producing full performances of the plays and the publication of a translated anthology in English of the selected Italian plays. This initiative is year-round with the mission to support the development playwrights' work over the course of a year.

In 2017, we also started developing a sister initiative which promote the work of American playwrights in Italy. The experience of running the Italian and American Playwrights Project has emphasized how important it is to introduce Italy’s contemporary theatrical work in the US and vice versa. This has also helped us establish a more consistent dialogue between the two arts scenes, which has always been rare and accidental in the last 25-30 years.

In 4 years, the Italian and American Playwrights Project has grown a lot as well as our team and the desire to become a point of reference for dramaturgy and translations, a center where authors can find support and help to spread their work.


What are your upcoming projects? How can we learn more about them?

At this time we’re working on the second edition of translations of our Italian plays, whereas in Italy we’re having a hard time finding funds for the publication of the translations of the American plays.

Among all the projects, one that is important for me to mention is the creation of an artistic residence for the authors and translators in New York and in Italy.

Furthermore, I’m working with Le Albe on their “Dante Project” which sees cycles of conferences, shows, and “calls to the public” around the Divina Commedia.

I invite you all to follow our activities on the website All of our projects are the results of great work but they’re only made possible by our many friends and supporters whose donations are fundamental to continue our growth.

A Notebook for Winter and Events Horizon | Italy

Tuesday May 14 at 6:30 pm

Playwrights: Armando Pirozzi & Elisa Casseri

Director: John Green & Matt Masino

Translator: Adriana Rossetto

In collaboration with Italian & American Playwrights Project and Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago

Instituto Cervantes of Chicago

Interview with French Translator Samuel Buggeln


How did you begin work as a theater translator? 

This is a sort of interesting origin story. When I was in college I discovered theater directing and more or less immediately knew that that was something I could happily spend the rest of my life on. At the same time, I’d learned to speak French as a child in the public school French Immersion program (I’m Canadian), and then learned pretty good Spanish in college. There was a moment in my senior year when I’d accompanied a friend to the campus careers office, and sitting in the waiting room waiting for her, I saw a pamphlet in a rack on the wall “be a translator“. And I thought, “if I didn’t already know I wanted to be a theater director, that’s something else I could spend the rest of my life on.“ It was many years before I discovered I could combine those two callings. Living the dream!

Why do you do the work that you do?

I aim to use my theatrical skills and language skills to try to bring a diversity of international theater voices to the United States who wouldn’t have made it here otherwise. I do this is a director, as a translator, and as an artistic director of my company the Cherry Arts in Ithaca New York. I do it because the theater world in the United States, like many worlds in the United States, though we don’t think of ourselves this way, is very inward-turned and quite mistrustful  of work from other countries. I think that every way we can broaden our horizons and understand that people from other places are still people like we are, and that even if they tell their stories in different ways these stories are ones in which we can find commonality, that’s a good thing for all of us. And moreover, when we discover the ways in which people tell their stories differently than we do, but still in ways we can enjoy, that can hopefully allow us to expand our own horizons of art-making and storytelling practice.


Can you tell us about the Cherry Arts?

My company the Cherry Arts supports a wide range of projects in many different artistic disciplines by hosting them in the Cherry Artspace, our flexible performance space on the Cayuga Inlet in Ithaca, New York. So we work with companies and artists who make music, puppetry, dance, performance art, installation, all sorts of things. BUT the central project we support is the Cherry Artists Collective, which is an ensemble of professional theater artists based in Central New York, many of us faculty members in area theater departments (including Binghamton U, Ithaca College, and Cornell). The Cherry Collective’s work focuses on what we call the “Radically Local, Radically Global, and Formally Innovative.” So we create boundary-pushing works that we commission close to home, or translate from exciting contemporary work in other languages. In the four years we’ve been producing we have produced four commissioned world premieres (two were headphone walking-plays, a new form we are loving to explore) and six English-language premieres, with a number more on the way next season. 


What are your upcoming projects? Where can we learn more about them?

As I write this the Cherry is two weeks out from announcing next season, so I can’t tell you specifics yet! But I can say there will be a Latin American play, two plays from countries we haven’t represented yet, and a play from a beloved playwright whose work we have produced before to great enthusiasm from our audience. By the time you read this, we may have announced them! So go to to find out everything about what we have going on, and come visit us in Ithaca to see one of our productions! 

George Kaplan | France

Thursday, May 23, 2019

6:30 PM  - 9:30 PM

Instituto Cervantes Chicago 31 West Ohio Street Chicago, IL, 60654

Synopsis: George Kaplan the character is the fictional spy in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, and George Kaplan the play is at once an anarchic comedy, a spy thriller, and a dizzying exploration into the relationship between reality and fiction. A hall-of-mirrors journey through conspiracy theories, the quality of coffee, and the nature of identity itself, the play forces an uneasy reckoning with the ways in which media narratives drive our politics and shape our understanding of the world. George Kaplan was first produced in Copenhagen in 2013 and since then has become an international phenomenon translated into a dozen languages, receiving countless readings and fifteen full productions throughout Europe as well as North and Latin America.

Playwright: Frédéric Sonntag

Translator: Samuel Buggeln

Director: Warner Crocker


Listen to WGN Radio and the Patti Vasquez Show as Patrizia Acerra discusses the current IVP 2019 Season May 2 - June 4, 2019

Listen to WGN Radio and the Patti Vasquez Show as Patrizia Acerra discusses the current IVP 2019 season May 2 - June 4, 2019

Conversation begins 1:07:42




MAY 2 - JUNE 4, 2019


Interview with Chile Translator Adam Versenyi


How does one become a professional translator? Did you study this in school? 

While I did take a seminar on literary translation with Suzanne Jill Levine (preeminent translator of Latin American fiction) when I was in college where I produced a rather ghastly translation Julio Cortázar's short story Cartas de mamá, I began translating Latin American theatre when I was in graduate school at the Yale School of Drama in the MFA program in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism.  An Argentine named Alberto Minero was running the theatre department of what was then the Institute for Iberoamerican Affairs (now the Americas Society) and had produced a festival of Latin American plays in Spanish in New York City.  He sent two of the plays by Griselda Gambaro to the Yale Rep for consideration and Gitta Honnegger, the dramaturg there at the time and one of my professors, knew I had the language and gave them to me to review for consideration at the Rep.  Up until that point I had read and studied Latin American poetry and prose but for some reason it had never occurred to me that there was theatre in Latin America.  I read the two plays, fell in love with them, translated them, and began my life long mission to introduce English speakers to the vast richness of Latin American theatre.  A labor of love that expanded to include theatre from any language in the world translated into English when I founded my journal The Mercurian: A Theatrical Translation Review in 2007.

How did you meet and come to collaborate with Ramon Griffero? 

I first met Ramon in 1991 when USIA and ITI sponsored director/dramaturg teams on trips to Latin America.  The then Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company, David Hammond, and I took a trip to Mexico City, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Santiago de Chile during which we met with actors, directors, producers, and government officials in each location and saw a lot of theatre.  While in Chile we met Ramón who was both running a cultural center called El Trolley in a warehouse that had formerly been used by the trolley workers union, and had his own theatre company, Teatro de Fin de Siglo.  I found him and the work done by his company quite compelling.  Several years later we were both part of a grant proposal out of City Theatre in Pittsburgh to do a production of a Calderón de la Barca play.  The idea was that I would do the translation and then Ramón would take it and apply his magic to it.  That project never came to fruition, but we kept in touch and when I was back in Santiago in 2011 we got together for dinner.  As we were saying our good-byes Ramón handed me a collection of ten plays that his company had produced.  I read them on the flight back home and immediately contacted him to ask to translate them.  Those are the plays in my collection Ramón Griffero: Your Desires in Fragments published by Oberon Books in 2016. Since then I've also translated his play Prometheus, the Beginning as a commission for Ohio Northern University's International Play Festival and am working on a translation of his little book of aesthetic theory, The Dramaturgy of Space.

What languages and types of plays do you translate?

While I consider myself to be fluent in Spanish I only translate from Spanish to English.  There are so many nuances of language and culture that a non-native speaker of the language being translated into will miss.  I've focused on translating Latin American theatre and have done plays by the Argentines Griselda Gambaro and Agustín Cuzzani, and the Mexican Sabina Berman, in addition to Ramón's work.  I translate plays that offer something that we don't find in our US theatrical culture, dramaturgically, formally, or theatrically.  I'm often drawn to plays that I don't initially understand but find theatrically compelling.  Translating them, getting inside of them, enables me to understand them and create an English translation that does the same for both my collaborators in the US and for the audience.

Cups of Wrath & Legua’s Gynecologist | Chile

Thursday, May 2, 2019

6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Instituto Cervantes Chicago 31 West Ohio Street Chicago, IL, 60654  (map)

Playwright: Ramon Griffero

Translator: Adam Versényi

Director: Jon Dambacher

Partner: Instituto Cervantes of Chicago

Join us after the show for a champaign reception to toast our 10 year anniversary!

Patrizia Acerra Discusses the 9th Season of IVP on WBEZ Worldview

Weekend Passport: International Voices Project Premieres 9th Season


The International Voices Project is going on its ninth year working with Chicago’s ethnic and diplomatic communities to present contemporary plays from around the world. The monthlong festival has plays translated into English then read by professional actors and often followed with discussions of the plays’ significance. One of this year’s plays comes from Syria and it’s a collaboration with the Columbia College Theater department. Mihbaj, by Riat Ismet, explores the family dynamics of military conflict. Set amid a drought and the rise of ISIS, the play offers a humanist view of what’s been going in in the Middle East.

To discuss the festival, we’re joined by Patrizia Acerra, the founder and executive director of the International Voices Project, and John Green, who is a professor of theatre at Columbia College Chicago. He is working with with Ismet on premiering Mihbaj at the International Voices Project. We’ll also hear from global citizen Nari Safavi on more ways to have an international good time on the weekend.

The new season kicks off this Tuesday May 1st and continues through May 30th at the Instituto Cervantes of Chicago (31 W. Ohio). For more information about the schedule and to reserve tickets please visit us at

Keep the festival free! For six years, we have kept our readings free of charge. Now we need your help. Please donate today to keep the new season free and open to the public. Help support IVP by making a donation today. Any amount helps us achieve our goals.

WBEZ WORLDVIEW: From Nobel Peace Prize winners to Nicaraguan sweatshop workers, we highlight a range of voices that go beyond the headlines. Worldview delves deep into the people and forces shaping Chicago’s world communities, exploring issues and events through in-depth series and public events. Hosted by Jerome McDonnell. From WBEZ. Airs weekdays at 12 p.m. on WBEZ

Listen to the Worldview Podcast here. Find Worldview via RSS | Facebook | Twitter | Email

IVP Season 9 Announcement

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International Voices Project (IVP) is proud to announce this year’s five-week celebration of international plays. The ninth season of play readings by playwrights from around the world takes place at Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio, May 1 – 31 with performances at 7 p.m. The series is presented in collaboration with consulates and other cultural institutions throughout Chicago and this year’s engagement features plays from Spain, Serbia, Poland, Syria, Finland, French Canada, India and Germany. A reception follows each evening’s reading. The International Voices Project is the largest event of its kind in the country and introduces Chicago audiences to some of the most exciting voices on the international theater scene. Performances are free to the public and reservations are requested.  For the complete program, more information about IVP, or to reserve your seat, visit our 2018 season page.


International Voices Project (IVP), now in its 8th season, presents a five week celebration of international plays. The series is presented in collaboration with consulates and other cultural institutions throughout Chicago and this year’s engagement features plays from Spain, Ireland, Finland, Romania, Serbia, Germany, Australia, India, Wales and Sweden.

A reception follows each evening’s reading. The International Voices Project is the largest event of its kind in the country. Performances are free to the public. Reservations are requested.  For the complete program, more information about IVP, or to reserve your seat, visit