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


Nabiha Mansoor2019