Yesterday I presented twice for the Scholars Seminar for the Network of Biblical Storytellers International. Perhaps reflecting on those moments will both give you an insight into some of the work I am doing, and also show you a glimpse of the work we have been doing here together these past two days.
This morning I was one of seven or eight people to tell the story of Jesus' encounter with women mourning for him as he is led away after being sentenced to crucifixion (Luke 23). It's a really short passage. Two of us were asked to prepare new translations, which were given to two storytellers each to perform. I also performed mine, being both scholar and storyteller (some of the members of the seminar are one or the other, some are both). Then two other storytellers told the story in a translation of their choice.
This was the third story to be workshopped in this way, and over the two days of these multiple tellings, we noticed again for the first time the gift it is to have a story told by different tellers, the gift each storyteller brings to a story, their unique voice, body, insight, context - all shape their interpretation of the translation, of the story. So we noticed a feeling of despair and heaviness in Amelia's telling of my translation, and the heaviness of the 'death march' Jesus walks; the contemporary impact of the language changes Deryll made to my translation, in order to convey meaning in a more concrete way as seemed fitting to him; and in mine, which was first, we noticed the language choices, somewhat old perhaps - for example, 'greenwood time' as a more literal translation of what is usually rendered 'when the wood is green / wet', but it felt more poetic to me, which is why I chose to translate it that way. And for some reason, we had been paying particular attention to the fact that I am a poet the day before, because yesterday's story was the Magnificat, a poem or organised poetic discourse, and people kept saying - sorry Sarah, but I'm not a poet!! As if they would hurt my feelings with the admission! So we laughed a lot about that yesterday.
This afternoon I presented some insights from my PhD and its test case embodied performance interpretation of Romans. I was talking about Romans 16, and what I had learnt of its meaning by embodying it, and observing the ways in which the body moved, felt and spoke. One of the things I talked about was the influence of performance on one of my translation choices in this chapter, which seemed to me to link well into the broader discussions of translation and performance of the whole seminar. We have been exploring how performance is translation, have heard about storytelling and translation in remote parts of the world and the joys and challenges faced by those travelling to these places to share a story of hope and invite others to enter that story and make it their own, and have wrestled with various perspectives in translation of biblical texts that rub up against each other in interesting and sometimes uncomfortable ways - like, where to start, trying to render the 'original' Greek with its nuanced sounded meaning into English in appropriate ways, or trying to recreate the story anew, appropriately conveying the emotion, tone, themes of the Greek in English for the needs of the particular audience today.
I performed Romans 16, and the performance was very well received, with a warm round of applause before I went on to the discussion of the various elements of performance interpretation. I am encouraged by the affirmation of my translation choice for the key word of the chapter - usually rendered 'greet', I say 'embrace'. I also received enthusiastic encouragement for the work I am doing, which many have urged me to finish, acknowledging the very great challenges still to overcome if I am to do so.
That is a very short snapshot of two quite intense days of conversation and storytelling, which even with multiple blog posts I couldn't convey to you adequately. Know that I am being challenged, nurtured, encouraged, and inspired. Know that I am glad to be here, grateful to all who make that possible, and delighting in the intersections of work with other storytellers and scholars.