WHAT ARE SURTITLES? WHY DOES L’UNITHÉÂTRE OFFER THEM?
L’UniThéâtre believes in sharing its francophone productions with the larger Edmonton and Alberta communities. After all, theatre is a site of exchange! This is why L’UniThéâtre ACCENTuates Accessibility through the use of English surtitles – translations of a play’s mono/dialogues that are projected live and above the stage.
Surtitles are a perfect tool for those who do not understand French but want to attend a play with their Francophone spouse or partner, for French-language learners or enthusiasts, and even for members of the deaf and hard of hearing community for whom theatre is relatively inaccessible.
‘Surtitles’ is a trademark of the Canadian Opera Company, where surtitles were first used in 1983. The word surtitles comes from the French “sur” – meaning on top of, and “titres” - titles. Making an enormous impact in the opera world, surtitles have since become a popular mode of linguistic and cultural exchange used for theatre productions. They are displayed during international theatre festivals and used by theatre companies in European destinations such as Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Madrid to make their productions accessible to tourists who may not understand the language in which the production is performed.
In Canada, ‘surtitling’ is a UNIque phenomenon: six professional francophone theatre companies across Western and Central Canada make use of surtitles to make their plays accessible to those who do not understand French and by extension, to those who may be deaf or hard of hearing.
Now everyone can enjoy a play…en français!
HOW TO USE SURTITLES:
If you’ve ever watched a subtitled movie, you can definitely handle surtitles!
The translations displayed in the surtitles are, at times, reworded or reduced in order to diminish the audience’s required reading time. The screen is generally centered above the stage, but can also be integrated in various ways into the set of a play.
If you need the surtitles to understand the play, make sure to seat yourself where you have a comfortable view of the surtitle screen and the stage. Seating is first come, first served.
You’ll need to shift your attention back and forth between the surtitles and the action on stage. Read the surtitles quickly and then look down to catch the actors’ performance. You’ll develop your own pace and strategies and you’ll quickly see that the surtitles are easy to use and enhance your understanding of the play!
*Most often, if the play is bilingual (French & English), only the French portions of the play are surtitled in English in order to maximize the audiences’ ability to focus on the performance itself.
*Sometimes, L’UniThéâtre’s productions are performed completely in French and completely in English, on alternating nights. For such productions, we do not make use of the surtitles.