[JITF2020] The Interpreter as a Performer – the Animal Called a Theatrical Arts Interpreter

Akihito Hirano

Translator/Interpreter (Japanese – French – Italian).  Left the Ph.D. Program of the Graduate School of Language and Society of Hitotsubashi University without a degree. He started working part-time translating videos, etc., shortly after joining the M.A. course and began working as an interpreter specializing in theatrical arts after getting to know Mr. Oriza Hirata while studying in the Ph.D. Program.  In 2014 and 2017, he accompanied Mr. Satoshi Miyagi, the art director of SPAC as his full-time interpreter at the Festival d’Avignon, interpreting for his lectures, live recordings on TV and radio, etc.  In recent years, he has been involved in coordination of many joint projects of Japan and France as Japan-based staff of Centre Dramatique National du Limousin.  Books he has translated include: “L’ incapacité d’être seul” (Kodansha), “Hitler, Mon Voisin” (Iwanami Shoten), etc.  He has also translated many plays.

The Interpreter as a Performer – the Animal Called a Theatrical Arts Interpreter

Hello.  I am Hirano.  It was more than ten years ago when I was a graduate student that I took what I thought would be a one-time job as an interpreter for a play, only to notice the arrogant attitude of the French director and to bawl him out.  Before I knew it, I had come to be called “the best-selling Japanese-French theatrical interpreter in Japan,” which isn’t saying much as there are probably only a few Japanese-French theatrical interpreters in Japan.  

At the age of 20, I began to study French against my will and by chance began to undertake translation and interpreting without any long-term experience studying abroad.  I just went with the flow, so I can’t say anything particularly useful for professional interpreters or those who are on that career path.  Sorry about that.

However, the value of my experience in the extremely niche market segment of dedicated theatrical art interpreting is probably higher than that of anyone else, so I believe I should be able to give an interesting talk different from anyone else. By the way, the following are just a few examples of wacky episodes that I have experienced up to now.

・pulled a tripwire in the midst of a performance
・cleaned up the stage after a performance and dashed back to the hostel to prepare food for everyone.
・scolded the director and got him to apologize and treat me to dinner
・continued to operate the subtitles even as the alarm was ringing and the sprinklers were spinning.
・rode the ambulance many times in Marseilles
・appeared every night as an actor at le Centre national du théâtre à Paris
・used simultaneous interpretation equipment to give a 30 minute warm-up before each theatrical performance.
・memorized the program, got up on stage and play acted while interpreting simultaneously

On the day, I would also like to boast about some of my translations and live interpreting gigs in which I really outperformed myself.  I hope many people will participate as I would feel I had let down the people who offered me this opportunity if many people do not come.

By the way, I also speak Italian.  My Korean is intermediate level.  I am a beginner in Arabic but my pronunciation is very good.  I am completely unable to speak English. Thanks for everything.  What the heck am I talking about!?