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Episode 5

It’s Cold and It’s Getting So Dark by Carmen-Francesca Banciu
Translated by Elena Mancini

Set in Berlin shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, It’s Cold and It’s Getting So Dark centers around Deborah, a former radio journalist in the GDR who is dying of cancer. Through a somewhat dreamlike dialogue between Deborah and an unnamed younger female friend, we learn about Deborah’s troubled childhood in East Germany, her failed marriage, and her later heartbreak after her female partner leaves her when she is unable to deal with Deborah’s illness.

The Play for Voices production of It’s Cold and It’s Getting So Dark  was directed by Anne Posten. Kevin Ramsay and Kaya Bailey designed and mixed the audio. The role of Speaker 1 was played by Jocelyn Kuritsky, and the role of Speaker 2 (Deborah) by Carol Monda.

Play for Voices audio plays are recorded at Harvestworks by audio engineer Kevin Ramsay.

Play for Voices is produced by Jen Zoble, Anne Posten, Katrin Redfern, and Matt Fidler.

About the Author and Translator

Carmen-Francesca Banciu is the author of five novels, several short story collections, critical essays, and a radio play. Born in Lipova, Romania, she studied religious painting and foreign trade in Bucharest, and began publishing short stories in the 1980s. In 1985, she was awarded the International Short Story Award of the City of Arnsberg for the story “Das strahlende Ghetto” (“The Beaming Ghetto”). Immediately following this award, Banciu was banned from publishing her work in Romania. In 1991, she accepted an invitation extended by the DAAD Berlin Artists-in-Residence program and went to Germany. Since her debut in German, Banciu has established herself as a Berlin-based writer, adopting German as her primary literary language. Banciu first debuted in the German language in 1996, with her memoiristic novel Vaterflucht [Flight from Father]. Banciu was Writer-in-Residence at Rutgers University from 2004-2005 and the University of Bath in 2009. In 2016, Banciu made Loren Kleinmann’s “Most Badass Female Protagonists” list in Huffington Post. Banciu currently lives in Berlin and works as a freelance author and co-editor/deputy director of the transnational, interdisciplinary, and multilingual e-magazine Levure Littéraire.

Elena Mancini is a German-English and Italian-English literary translator. Her published translations span the genres and include three novels as well as numerous articles of social and political commentary. Mancini holds a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures and is a language, literature, and film professor at Queens College in New York City.


It’s Cold and It’s Getting So Dark is the third of the three winners of the audio drama in translation contest Play for Voices held last year in partnership with Words without Borders, which is publishing the script of each winning audio play.


Interviews with Carmen-Francesca Banciu and Elena Mancini

Anne Posten

ANNE: You’re most well known for your fiction and journalism. What do you find special about writing for the radio, and why did you choose this medium to tell this story?

CARMEN-FRANCESCA: I’ve always been interested in theater, and particularly in radio plays. In communist Romania there was a very colorful radio drama program called Teatru radiofonic. Mostly the pieces were adaptations of famous plays from the international canon, and they were performed by the country’s best actors. As long as the play wasn’t explicitly ideologically dangerous, the actors, director, and sound designers could go wild artistically, despite the strict censors. They could experiment. They turned texts into theater with their wonderful artistic ability, inspiration, inventiveness, improvisational skill, and cleverness. The program was very popular, and you can still find episodes on YouTube. These productions, which still hold up against today’s artistic standards, had a great influence on me as an author. Theater, and audio drama in particular, is a compact and very precise, challenging form. Writing for radio to some extent works according to different rules than writing for the stage. There’s a reason it’s referred to in Germany as “theater for the ears.” Or “mind cinema.” You don’t see anything, you only hear. So much happens in the mind of the listener. Radio is a strong, powerful instrument, an unbelievably complex medium. Audio drama lacks the spontaneity of the stage, but it offers rich design possibilities; it has inexhaustible potential for experimentation. Germany has a great tradition of audio drama. Famous writers, including Ingeborg Bachmann, Günther Eich, Ilse Aichinger, and Helmuth Heißenbüttel wrote for the form and raised it to an art. I was inspired to try my hand and see how I measured up against these poetic masters. I also think that my writing generally has filmic and dramatic qualities—because of the way I allow the characters in my books to come alive through selected moments in their lives, which have the quality of scenes. In my writing I try, among other things, to approach material objectively and from a variety of perspectives—to express objectivity in a subjective, artistic way. Additionally, I often include exemplary moments that come directly out of reality. Moments from the lives of my characters, who are usually also connected to an exemplary historical-political moment and are the expression of a given time. Or rather: the choice of moments turns them into exemplary characters. I don’t narrate. Or perhaps it’s a kind of narration that pulls the past into the present through a series of scenes. I recreate a successive present. And this creates tension. Drama. Ultimately, it’s not much different than a play.

ANNE: Much of your fiction draws on your own life experience, yet It’s Cold and It’s Getting So Dark tells a very different story: one that is very intimate, yet deeply affected by recent German history. How did the idea develop in your mind, and what was your writing process like?

CARMEN-FRANCESCA: It goes back to the idea of the exemplary. I’ve written autobiographical novels, or novels that are autobiographically influenced, choosing moments from my biography that could also be exemplary for a generation, a society, a time. So it’s not about my personal biography, but rather the expression of a time. It’s a kind of aid or bridge that helps us think about and understand, for example, the era of communism from various perspectives. Everything that I write is fed by my life experiences, even if it also includes the life experiences of others. Renders. Integrates. As far as the origin of this radio piece: there really was a Deborah, whose experience I sublimate here. Of course, Deborah wasn’t her name. My stories can’t be understood one to one. But when I invent something in a text, I do it in the spirit of the person who inspired the character. Or in the spirit of what happened. The invented stories cohere with the story of that person. Even when I write surreal stories, which I like to do very much, there’s a level on which it’s authentic, and connected to reality. The fall of the Wall, which had so many consequences politically and on the history of Europe and the world—and of course also on my own personal history—still means a lot to me. You could say I’m obsessed with it. I took the story of Deborah’s life, which is rooted in the GDR and was dramatically altered by the fall of the Wall, as an invitation to engage with this theme artistically. In addition, I was inspired by Deborah’s fate, connected as it is with the fate of her country, which has also become my country, my adopted home. I grew close to Deborah through the shared experience of communism. But the play’s most important theme is really the farewell. The letting go and leaving of life with courage, immeasurable dignity, and generosity. It was a great challenge to express this without becoming melodramatic, even though death is a frequent theme in my writing.

ANNE: Do you often listen to radio plays in German? Are there particular Hörspiel writers (either contemporary or classic) who have inspired you?

CARMEN-FRANCESCA: My love for and my work with radio began in Romania and has lasted to the present day. It’s grown, in fact. I like making work for the radio. But Germany is a land of passionate radio listeners. Even though one might think that the golden age of radio drama is past. Nowadays there are not only mystery shows and the like but also very interesting experimental and minimalist sound works. Radio art is an important part of German culture and is celebrated and presented at festivals. There are also the genres of documentary audio plays and features. Sometimes the lines between the forms are blurry. That’s one of the fascinating things about work for the radio. And I also have a desire to work more with sound and words, and to create my own sound pieces.

(Translated from the German by Anne Posten)


ANNE: You’ve translated a lot of Carmen-Francesca’s work. What draws you to her writing?

ELENA: Where to begin…? Most striking to me was the freshness and robustness of her voice. It has this ability to articulate emotion with a boldness and sense of immediacy that draws you in. This, coupled with her way of critically deconstructing those very emotions as having the distinction of feeding different parts of the self—the need to emotionally identify and feel recognized as well as one’s rational skepticism. The honesty with which Banciu gives voice to emotion, while childlike in its relentlessness and simplicity of language and expression, never indulges in beguiling naiveté. Rather, coherently uncompromising and unsparing, the honesty in Banciu’s prose often takes aim at her narrator or protagonist, which in many instances coincides with the author herself. Thus, her writing offers a unique blend of intensity of feeling and hard-fought detachedness. Banciu’s choice of imagery is also fascinating. She has a knack for elevating what is seemingly mundane and everyday, at times rendering it surreal, and she demystifies and lends earthiness to ideals and concepts which seem lofty and out of reach. Finally, her musical style, repetition, variation on a theme, introductions of new motifs and reintroducing them at a fevered pitch is distinct and bewitching.

ANNE: As I understand it, there are multiple versions or drafts of the play. What was your process like in crafting this English version? Do you work closely with Carmen-Francesca, or is the process more independent?

ELENA: It’s a collaborative process and we re-work and revisit things collaboratively over time. I see it as a unique privilege to be able to go directly to the author and ask for clarifications and elaborations of terms, idioms, and turns of phrases that may not immediately be accessible to me. Oftentimes these questions lead to a deeper understanding of the culture of origin. In the case of Carmen-Francesca Banciu, it’s doubly enriching because of the multiplicity of her cultures and languages of reference. It’s an unmitigated privilege to have these discussions with the author.

ANNE: As a translator, how important do you find the cultural and historical context to an understanding of this work? How did this affect your translation?

ELENA: It’s extremely important. The beauty of literature in translation is that it allows one to widen their cultural horizons, to begin to filter universal problems and experiences through different cultural lenses. Some would articulate this as an educative purpose—I don’t think it’s necessary to adopt didactic terms since I see cultural enlightenment and stimulation as intrinsically pleasurable. Nevertheless, I see it as my duty as a literary translator not only to be curious about the culture of origin of the works I translate, but to endeavor as much as possible to understand them from the inside.

ANNE: In addition to being a translator, you are also a scholar. How do you see these two roles interacting? Are they complementary, or entirely separate?

ELENA: They are certainly becoming more and more complementary. I am almost always tempted to teach and write about what I translate. My commitment to writing, teaching, and translation are animated by my love and thirst for powerful and original literary voices and my desire to make them known to a broader international audience. Whether I am translating, teaching, or performing literary criticism, a strong literary voice is always a focal point and a center of gravity and will determine how I organize these activities.



Episode 4

Please Enter Destination by Tereza Semotamová
Translated by Barbora Růžičková

A young couple, Helena and Honza, on a weekend drive to visit bourgeois friends, find that their new GPS has a life of its own and their friendly hitchhiker is a devil. Their encounters with these characters, against the backdrop of increasingly absurd radio news updates, reveal the flaws and merits of their relationship and their respective worldviews.

The Play for Voices production of Please Enter Destination was directed by Jen Zoble. Wayne Shulmister designed and mixed the audio. The role of Helena was played by Michaela Morton, Honza by Imran Sheikh, Angela the GPS by Carol Monda, and the Radio Announcer and the Devil by Mark Rayment.

Play for Voices audio plays are recorded at Harvestworks by audio engineer Kevin Ramsay.

Play for Voices is produced by Jen Zoble, Anne Posten, Katrin Redfern, and Matt Fidler.

About the Author and Translator

Tereza Semotamová is Czech screenwriter, journalist, radio editor, and translator from the German. She holds a degree in screenwriting and German language and literature, and is a regular contributor to Czech Radio, the country’s national radio company. Tereza has written over a dozen radio plays and edited a number of radio shows focusing on German literature and culture; with her film screenplay TAK DOBROU, she won the Czech edition of the NISI MASA Script Contest.

Barbora Růžičková is a translator and interpreter working between English and Czech. A native Czech, she was brought up in a bilingual environment and spent most of her childhood abroad; today, she is based in Prague, Czech Republic. Barbora holds a degree in translation and art history, and her published literary translations include two books for young adults and a series of excerpts from contemporary Scottish literature. In 2014, she took part in the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency program.

The Czech song featured in Please Enter Destination is “Včera neděle byla” (“Sunday Was Yesterday”).

Music: Jiří Šlitr
Lyrics: Jiří Suchý
Voice: Pavlína Filipovská
Orchestra of the Semafor Theatre, directed by Ferdinand Havlík
(P) 1960 SUPRAPHON a.s.

Recording used with the permission of Supraphon a.s.

“Včera neděle byla” can be purchased at iTunes or

Please Enter Destination is the second of the three winners of the audio drama in translation contest Play for Voices held last year in partnership with Words without Borders, which is publishing the script of each winning audio play. To read Please Enter Destination, go here.


An interview with Tereza Semotamová and Barbora Růžičková

Jen Zoble

JEN: Tell us about your collaboration. How did you end up working together, and what was the process like?

BARBORA: It all started when I found out about the Play for Voices contest. I loved the idea of a non-English radio play produced for an English-speaking audience, so I decided to give the competition a try and started researching possible translation candidates. I was quite adamant about translating the work of a contemporary writer, ideally a play addressing a current topic or, at the very least, set in the present.

I soon realized that Czech radio plays are a world unto themselves, one that I’ll need help navigating, so I started asking around for recommendations–and finally, a producer from a publishing house I work with (Větrné mlýny) introduced me to Tereza. We exchanged a few emails, I listened to as many of her plays as I could (or read the script where the recording was unavailable), and after settling on a few final candidates, selected Please Enter Destination. I believe that was actually the most difficult part of the process! After that, during the translation phase, we continued to talk mainly through email, and met in person a few months later.

JEN: What kinds of considerations, challenges, opportunities does the audio medium present for you as a writer, Tereza? And for you as a translator, Barbora?

TEREZA: Radio is my passion. I have a degree in radio and television dramaturgy and screenwriting from the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, a study field founded by Czech translator and playwright Antonín Přidal. Přidal wrote for the radio throughout his life, and as his student, I inherited his (rather obscure) appreciation for this (rather obscure) medium. I love sounds and the images we create on their basis. Connect a sound to a word, and voilà, a picture in your head! Sometimes sound is the only thing you need; at times, mere silence is enough.

It’s also true, however, that a writer writes for those who embrace their work–and the world of the radio welcomed mine, so before I knew it, I had written over ten radio plays. (Had, say, Hollywood producers been interested in my work, I would have ended up writing screenplays, though I would have written for the radio on the side anyway!)

As for the specific challenges presented by the audio medium, radio plays are all about the story and the search for the best means of expression in the context of the radio. In Please Enter Destination, this was the GPS system, which never ceases to fascinate me. Sometimes I go on road trips with a friend who can drive, and we always have a chat with the navigation system at one point or the other. It’s great fun!

For some time now, I have been toying with the idea of a radio play pieced together from audio messages. I have a friend with whom I communicate mainly through audio messages on WhatsApp, and I love the background noise, the intonation, the sighs, the slips of the tongue. I’ve also been thinking about a play set in the inner courtyard of a city block–a place where so many things happen at once. Where people argue, fall in love, die, water their plants, sit waiting…or listen to the radio (on radio).

BARBORA: Please Enter Destination was the first radio play I had ever translated, so for me, a major challenge was discovering the differences between a play created for the radio and a play written for the stage (or screen). The greatest of these turned out to be the need to consider the reference framework (or, the common knowledge) of the target listener. As Tereza mentions above, the audio medium requires us to create images on the basis of sounds; these images may, however, differ for audiences in the source and target culture. A listener who grew up in the Czech Republic will surely imagine different things than a listener from the States! A film or staged play will unify these images with a visual track, a novel can describe them in detail, but a radio play has none of these options. What will the listener see? Is it what the author had intended them to imagine? Those were the questions I found myself evaluating over and over during the translation process and, even more importantly, in the revision phase.

What I love most about translating plays in general (and this applies to radio plays as well) is that they always favor the target audience. It’s vitally important that the translation comes across as an original text, that everything the characters–and later actors–utter feels as natural as possible. Whenever I am translating a play, I always read the finished text out loud, ideally more than once, and try to put myself in the actors’ shoes–even more so in the case of Please Enter Destination, where I knew the translation would have to stand on its own without any visual aid.

JEN: The increasingly absurd news reports that appear throughout the play, and the pessimism expressed by certain characters, suggest a Czech Republic fraught with political stagnation and corruption. Could you provide some context for listeners who might not be familiar with contemporary Czech politics?

BARBORA: I’ll start with a brief overview of the current political climate in the Czech Republic–though I’m hardly a political scientist, so I can only offer the personal opinion of someone who does their best to follow daily news.

Following the fall of the Communist regime, the rather young country was faced with the necessity to establish some sort of new political balance within a rather tight timeframe. There was a lot of experimenting in the nineties, with high expectations and varying results, leading to a general feeling of disillusion that seems prevalent today. This disillusion manifests itself in a long-term general distrust towards the political establishment, and in a divided society with opposing opinions about specific individuals in positions of power (at the moment, the president, and the former finance minister, whom Forbes calls “the Czech Republic’s version of Donald Trump”; the two are adored by one half of the country and despised by the other). The uneasy climate in Europe, especially in connection with the refugee crisis, is not much help either, contributing to an atmosphere fraught with anxiety and occasional outbursts on both sides.

Considering the situation, it’s not surprising most people will come across as pessimists. Thankfully, all political and societal clashes usually only take place on a theoretical level, so if you’re not interested in politics, you can get on with your daily life without any interference whatsoever. It’s not as if there were riots or anything–mostly it’s peaceful demonstrations or people complaining in pubs!

Personally, I remain optimistic–however depressing the situation may feel, there is an ongoing lively public debate, a fight against corruption, and many political parties that are actively trying to make a difference. Finally, there’s always the consolation that whatever happens here will hardly extend beyond the border–the Czech Republic is not the US and on an international scale, our president’s decisions shouldn’t impact anything except the country’s reputation.

TEREZA: I wrote the play back in 2012. A peaceful year, when compared to the times we live in now, both in Europe and in the States. In 2012, I was living in Germany and telling everyone that I wouldn’t be coming back until we had a new president (back then it was Václav Klaus). Hah! Miloš Zeman, who succeeded him, was hardly better. In the end, however, I decided to come back anyway and leave my German life behind, because I just really like it here.

The bizarre news reports in the play are partly based on reality. The phrase “according to the new Civil Law, animals are now defined as objects rather than as living, breathing creatures” did actually appear on radio after the new law came into effect. The part about using animals as fuel is a reference to a Czech political party, TOP09. Today, I think it’s one of the few parties that still manage to maintain at least some dignity, but back in 2012, I found them extremely irritating. In Czech, the word “top” has various meanings–it can mean “stoking” a fire so you can keep yourself warm, “drowning” someone with the intention of killing them, and also being “top” at something. Unfortunately, this particular reference doesn’t translate well into English.

Finally, the main thing I wanted to explore was the atmosphere of activism on an ordinary Sunday afternoon outing–coming to terms with something that bothers you, or fighting it as much as you can.

JEN: Could you talk about the choice to feature the song “Včera neděle byla” (“One More Weekend is Over”)? What is its cultural significance, and how do you view its role in the play?

TEREZA: Sunday–a beautiful day, but for me personally often filled with melancholy. It’s a day to be filled in, a day to be lived out, and, oh, those Sunday evenings…. That’s a completely different story. For me, “Včera neděle byla” describes an ideal Sunday, probably one that doesn’t even exist, or at least one that I’ve never experienced myself. I’m still waiting…. The world is changing, I’ve fallen in love….

Anyway, in the context of the play, the song forms a stark contrast to everything that is actually going on. All those typical things we do on Sundays that are, however, far from ideal–going on trips, having serious talks about our relationships, discussing ethics and current events. I really like “Včera neděle byla,” mainly because of the directness of the singer, Pavlína Filipovská. Its inclusion in the play was born of pure irony. After all, songs play an important role in radio plays, often acting as some sort of shield which helps form the atmosphere of the play from the very beginning. You can play around with the lyrics, use them with an ironic twist, interject them in the play, use them to give the plot rhythm, or use them in the play’s finale.

BARBORA: As for the cultural significance of the song, “Včera neděle byla” is a pop song written by Czech composer and musician Jiří Šlitr and songwriter Jiří Suchý in the 1960s. The famous duo composed it for the Semafor theatre, which would generally put on short comedy sketches and scenes, and host many up-and-coming Czech pop singers (most of whom would later become quite famous).

Most Czechs would recognize the song (or even know a few verses by heart); many songs by Suchý & Šlitr are part of music books that are used in compulsory music classes in primary schools. In addition, the song “Včera neděle byla” appears on radio from time to time, usually inspiring a feeling of nostalgia.

JEN: Tell us about the current audio drama landscape in the Czech Republic. Who comprises the audience for your work?

TEREZA: In the Czech Republic, radio plays have a long tradition. In general, the only organization that commissions them is Czech Radio, the national broadcasting company. Its several specialized channels often air shows focusing on literature or drama. You can even study radio dramaturgy at two Czech universities–the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno and Palacký University in Olomouc.

As for the audience, I believe–based on the responses I have received–that radio plays have retained their traditional listeners. Radio shows on literature and culture are hardly mainstream, so their audience will always lean towards the slightly unusual–hipsters, older people, truckers, ambulance drivers, people with impaired vision, people who want to listen to something while cooking, knitting, or making pickles, or bookworms hunting for something interesting to listen to at work.

Finally, the greatest measure of success for me is when someone uploads one of my plays to a file-sharing server and makes it freely available.



Episode 3

That Deep Ocean… by Ana Cândida Carneiro
Translated by Stephen Pidcock

In Brazilian-Italian author Ana Cândida Carneiro’s That Deep Ocean…, a two-character audio play written in Italian and translated by Stephen Pidcock, a single day in a woman’s life becomes an epic journey of self-discovery. The action shifts between the character’s everyday world, where she’s trapped in a dreary job, and an alternative realm, part dreamscape, part subconscious. In that world, she converses—by turns awestruck, challenging, and playful—with an underwater sea creature who presents as a powerful, seductive, masculine presence. She perceives him as a giant squid, but he might also be an aspect of herself. In language that alternates between the poetic and the matter-of-fact, That Deep Ocean… explores questions of identity, love, and death.

The Play for Voices production of That Deep Ocean… was directed and co-produced by Sarah Montague and performed by Amanda Quaid and Peter Francis James. Brazilian composer Fernando Arruda provided original music for Matt Fidler’s sound design.

Play for Voices productions are recorded at Harvestworks by audio engineer Kevin Ramsay.

Play for Voices is produced by Jen Zoble, Anne Posten, Katrin Redfern, and Matt Fidler.


About the Author and Translator

Ana Cândida Carneiro (author) is an award-winning Brazilian-Italian playwright, currently based in the US. Her work has been internationally performed and supported by institutions such as the Royal Court Theater, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo. She holds a PhD in Theater Studies, focusing on innovative contemporary playwriting techniques. She is currently a Research Associate in the Department of Theater, Dance & Media at Harvard University.

Stephen Pidcock (translator) studied English Literature and Italian at St. Andrews University, Scotland, and Verona University, Italy. He currently works as a translator and theatre publicist in London. He collaborated with the Royal Court Theatre reading and reporting on Italian scripts for the International Department from 2009 to 2013.


That Deep Ocean… is the first of the three winners of the audio drama in translation contest Play for Voices held last year in partnership with Words without Borders, which is publishing the script of each winning audio play. To read That Deep Ocean…, go here.


An interview with Ana Cândida Carneiro

Katrin Redfern

ANA: This play was a commission by the Mexican composer, Javier Torres Maldonado, who’s a very good friend of mine in Italy. I was living in Italy and he asked me to come up with an idea for a radio play and I already had this idea in mind, in my notebook. I have this huge notebook of ideas and sometimes someone asks me something and I go there and grab something…but it was my first experience of writing for sound, because he’s a composer and I had to create a dialogue with music. It was challenging and it was a very important experience for me, professionally, because it did change the way that I conceived playwriting, writing for the stage too. So, I worked with the composer. We met a few times and he shared with me some of his musical ideas. I built the play on his musical ideas, on the structure that he gave me but I wanted to write a play that was going to be independent of that specific production. I wrote the play and the version that was produced in France was actually an adaptation of the version that is being produced now, which is the full version, and it is also very, very different musically. The music has a very, very important place in that first production and so, with that experience, I discovered this whole new space of writing for the ear, that allows you so much. You really have to conceive writing for an acoustic space, which is different, so the words and sound of the words and the images that come from the combination of the sounds of the words. It’s a different space to work in but very enriching, and I think that this experience did change my writing for the stage, also, because you do start to pay a lot more attention to the musical qualities that words have and the impact that that musicality has on the audience. So, yeah, that was my first encounter with radio, and I’m really excited about this production and I’m really curious about how’s it going to come out, this full version of my initial acoustic idea. I think radio plays are acoustic objects, acoustic objects of art, and it’s exciting when you have other people involved in creating this and to give the listener an acoustic experience that hopefully is going to ring a bell inside and it’s going to be changing somehow.

KATRIN: What language did you write the play in?

ANA: I wrote this one in Italian, and then it was translated into French for the first production. The it was translated into English by Stephen Pidcock, who is an amazing translator, and he maintained the qualities of the play but also was very, very sensitive to the musicality. It’s very difficult, the process of translating the radio play, because you have to think about the whole acoustic architecture in a different language and it can be a recreation even. So he was really very good.

KATRIN: I love the animal element, tell us about that.

ANA: Yeah, I love the animal element and I do believe in a future of playwriting that is post-anthropocentric somehow…. When I was writing this play, it was not conscious all the time, but I think it’s my first play where the animal element gains an important dimension and I do believe that the future is a post-anthropocentric future, where nature becomes a character, where human beings are really put into relation to this bigger element we are inserted in which is the environment and the problems that environment has today.

KATRIN: Does the play speak to specific cultural themes?

ANA: There are some aspects of the play that are connected to Italian reality, some aspects related to the female, to the woman in the workplace, which is problematic in Italy. So, for this character, she’s dealing with easing to short-term contracts, something that young Italians are having difficulty in renewing, and they are usually just three or six months. It’s difficult to build a life on such unstable ground. Also, this woman has the problem of invisibility, of being constantly challenged by the boss. The problems for women in the work place is another theme I wanted to touch on.

KATRIN: Is it set in England? Some of the word choices, and mentioning the Council made me think it was set in London.

ANA: That’s because the translator is British. It’s not set in a specific time. I had Milan in mind because I was living in Milan but it’s not the setting. It’s written in a way that could be a big city, where there’s this feeling of anonymity somehow. The director, Sarah Montague, decided to keep some of the British words. But I think it speaks to an American audience.

KATRIN: Tell us about the structure of the play, how it developed. Did the composer have the music written already when he came to you, or did the text come first.

ANA: He didn’t have the music before. He gave me the structure. He had a musical idea. He works with Fibonacci numbers and he had a specific…he wanted to work with the alternation of musical environment. So I wanted to build a story where there was this clear alternation of very different environments. That’s when the Squid came into place. He actually composed the music over that structure with the text already written.

KATRIN: Did you find writing for an auditory medium freed you in some way?

ANA: Yeah. I love the way audio frees you up. If you think, “What would the corollary be on stage for this play?” You have the Squid who’s serving as the Narrator. How would you transfer that to a physical stage?” You can do it many ways. It can be multimedia and maybe have a screen, and voiceover…. But it’s just a beautiful thing about audio plays. You are just free to…your pot is much bigger because you are not limited by the physicality of, “How will I actually get this up there?”

KATRIN: And you can call more freely on the audience’s imagination.

ANA: Yeah, the most exciting thing about radio plays is that you work with suggestion. So you can suggest images in the listener’s imagination. That really opens up so much. You can really tell the craziest stories. You can jump from one thing to the other. It really gives you this freedom. I think that every playwright should have an experience of writing for audio because it gives you that boldness…sometimes when you’re writing a play for the stage you’re always thinking, “How am I going to do this, how is the director going to do this?”

KATRIN: And the tendency is to be more realistic.

ANA: Yes, and how do you escape realist and push the language of playwriting beyond what it is. It is very important to see those openings. I think writing for the radio gives you that…really opens you up. You realize that you can transfer some of those techniques to the stage. I always think when I write for the stage about a sentence from Heiner Müller, the German playwright who said, “Literature has to make resistance to theater. What you create, what you write has to make resistance to the stage.” That means that you don’t write easy things that are just illustrative. Be bold. Explore language, structures. Challenge your audience, challenge the theater makers that are working with you. Write the unstageable play so that the director will have to find new ways to stage that play. This pushes theater, the language of theater further and the language of playwriting further. I think one of the problems of theater in America, is that it’s still very, very realistic. Realism is really very established, it needs to be problematized. There are very bold American playwrights that I admire very much. If you go to the predominant scene, even in New York it’s still very realistic even in the staging. You’ll see, oh my God, I’ve found myself looking at productions and thinking, “Why do they have to build this house on stage?” Why did they have to make that? Find other solutions.

KATRIN: Especially with the quintessential “American family drama.” You get to the theater and you think, “Once again there’s the life-sized house they built onstage, complete with full-sized staircases! Is this an architectural program or a theater?”

ANA: Yes, and the writing has to challenge that because if you have a very traditional type of playwriting it becomes illustrative. Let’s write the unstageable play. Let’s tell other stories that are not family stories. Let’s create crazy things. You don’t need to think about the easy solution of building the house onstage or having the real chicken on the table. Why do you have to…the fake chicken, it’s a chicken! Let’s think about taking this a little further. I think radio, audio, is a great way for the writer to learn this. To learn that you can be completely free from conventions. I think those are my key worries as a playwright, to push every play I write. I want it to be a different device. I don’t want it to be predictable. I want to reinvent drama every time. I want to reinvent writing for the theater every time. Let’s go beyond what we know. Not only the stories we tell but also the way we tell them.

KATRIN: Sometimes though I worry that we task ourselves with too much, this idea of constant reinvention. I think its inherent to academia, what gets funded and so forth. There’s an obsession with innovation. And ultimately how can you really do something differently with drama, an act that was part of the birth of human culture. We’ve been standing up in front of other people to reenact a story for 200,000 years, maybe more. The pressure for newness can seem laughable sometimes. In other fields as well…researchers are always carving out some new tiny corner of their field and defending it aggressively, so they get the funding…. “It’s has to be new, it’s has to push what came before!” And that’s a difficult thing to do honestly, without getting into weird machinations trying to manipulate the form, etc.

ANA: I think you touched on a very interesting point because there’s also the “dictatorship of the new.” We have to escape from that also. I am not like…I do like what’s called Postdramatic theater. I also like good dramatic theater sometimes. I think as a playwright, the most important thing is to find authenticity without being self indulgent. Without letting yourself be in the comfort zone. Like you said, there is a tension. It’s not good if you’re always, “I want to be original.” What does that mean? What does “original” mean? No, you have to be authentic, which is different than original. It’s important to think about your own writing practice and to make it problematic, for yourself and for the audience. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to completely reinvent drama. There is a tension that’s fertile. Because there’s also a lot of avant-garde that you go to and you say, “What is this?” It seems that it’s a reproduction of empty forms. We don’t want this. We want authenticity. Even talking about realism…it’s not that realism has to be banished. Just to be very clear. In some situations…for example what in America is called Black Theater…realism is used as a tool for telling untold stories. So realism doesn’t have to be banished. I think it’s how aware you are when you use a form. Being aware of what parts of it you want to use. Yeah. I think it’s that.



Episode 2

I Regret Nothing by Csaba Székely

Part Two of Two

The second half of I Regret Nothing picks up the story of retired Romanian secret service officer Dominic Cormoş as he comes face to face with the repercussions of his past and makes a decision that will shape his future and that of his 16-year-old neighbor Liza.

In the first half of the play, Dominic was visited by two other characters: Alex Dima, one of Dominic’s former subordinates and now a high-ranking agent in the intelligence service, planted a bug in Dominic’s apartment and attempted to blackmail him into performing a high-stakes mission. And Liza, Dominic’s sixteen-year-old neighbor, turned up asking to use his toilet when her abusive father’s daily tirade kept her from her own apartment. An unexpected friendship between Liza and Dominic sprouted from a shared love of dogs.

The character of Dominic is played by Paul Valley, Alex by Rob Neill, and Liza by Jocelyn Kuritsky, under Sarah Cameron Sunde’s direction.

Part Two of I Regret Nothing features music by the following artists:

Grigore Leșe, “Cântă cucu-n Bucovina”

Fanfare Ciocărlia, “Sandala”

Zdob și Zdub, “Goodbye”



Episode 1

I Regret Nothing by Csaba Székely

Part One of Two

It’s the summer of 2006, and Dominic Cormoş, a retired agent of the Securitate–the notorious secret police of Communist Romania–is living alone in his Transylvania apartment. With media coverage of the prosecutions of ex-Communist law enforcement officials in the background, Dominic is paid two surprise visits that will prove deeply consequential: the first, by Alex Dima, who served under Dominic in the Securitate and is now working in the Romanian Intelligence Service; and the second, by his sixteen-year-old neighbor Liza.

The character of Dominic is played by Paul Valley, Alex by Rob Neill, and Liza by Jocelyn Kuritsky, under Sarah Cameron Sunde’s direction.

Part One of I Regret Nothing features music by the following artists:

Grigore Leșe, “Cântă cucu-n Bucovina”

Jurica Jelić, “Under morning clouds”

Gabi Luncă, “Anii mei şi tinereţea”

Zdob și Zdub, “Mamaligamania”


About the Author

Csaba Székely was born in 1981 in Târgu Mureș, Romania. He’s a playwright who also writes for television. His first play (Do You Like Banana, Comrades?) won the regional prize for Europe at the BBC’s International Radio Playwriting Competition in 2009. It was also chosen as Drama of the Week by the BBC. A few years later, in 2013, it won the Society of Authors’ Richard Imison Award. Székely has since written a trilogy about country life in Transylvania: Bányavirág (“Mineflower”), Bányavakság (“Mineblindness”), and Bányavíz (“Minewater”), examining issues such as unemployment, alcoholism, nationalism, corruption, and high rates of suicide in the Hungarian population of Transylvania. The trilogy has been published in a volume by the Hungarian publishing house Magvető under the title Bányavidék’ (“Minelands”). These three plays have been produced in Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovakian theaters. Székely also has written a historical comedy called Vitéz Mihály (“Michael the Brave”) about the rise and fall of a medieval Romanian national hero. This play won first prize in the playwriting competition held by Hungary’s Weöres Sándor Theatre, which also produced it. He has written a musical titled Hogyne, drágám! (“Sure, honey!”), produced by the National Theatre of Târgu Mureș, Romania, as well as a contemporary take on Euripides’ tragedy Alcestis (also produced by the National Theatre of Târgu Mureș, Romania). He was one of the scriptwriters for the third season of HBO Hungary’s show Terápia (In Treatment).