My Coffee with Wally

shawn_wallace2Actually we just drank water, because we’re all too health-conscious these days to keep overcaffeinating all the time. I had invited Wallace Shawn to speak to my students at Columbia about his new translation of Ibsen’s 1892 play Bygmester Solness. It’s a really gorgeous translation that delves deep into the psychic lives of Ibsen’s characters and sketches their portraits in sharp chiaroscuro. At the same time, Shawn (himself a celebrated playwright as well as actor) makes some incisive adjustments to Ibsen’s play, tweaking both the framing of the story and a key plot twist, and I think his choices are extremely successful. The result (as captured on film by Jonathan Demme earlier this year) is a fascinating study in power struggles, aging, fantasy and love. I wanted the chance to speak in more depth with Shawn about his approach to the project, so asked if he would let me interview him. The record of our conversation has just been published by Public Books, so I invite you to hop on over and check out “Translating the Architecture of Desire: An Interview with Wallace Shawn.”

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