The Studio Theatre is currently doing a German play in one of their theaters, and they hosted a panel with four translators discussing the particular challenges of translating plays. No particular insights that hadn’t already occurred to me, but I was interested to hear how collaborative the process tended to be. One thing they talked about was listening to performances in both the original language and the translated version, to make sure the laughs and other emotional reactions hit in the right spots.
Sounds like the bit they all find most challenging is getting the tone and level of diction right. It’s very easy to say the same thing in dozens of different ways, some much more elevated than others, and matching the tone of the translation to the original is—well—probably not the most difficult task of the translator, necessarily, but the most fraught, because unless you know the source language very well you’re like a blind sculptor examining his model with gloves on. A couple of them work with literal translations and a source-language partner, which is so not how anti-social me wants to do things. (I’m a gentleman, not an extrovert.)
I acquired a couple volumes of Ferenc Molnár’s plays in Hungarian, three one-act plays and one three-act play, all of which have long since been translated into English. I think I’ll translate at least one of the plays, then compare it to the canonical translation, and see how my work measures up. Could be a very useful exercise.