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Sound Patterns as Connectors: An Experimental Production of Three Sisters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2021

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The actor is tasked with embodying text in order to portray the characters’ intentions. This article shows that such a complex task escalates when the actor performs in a second language. In South Africa, where eleven official languages are embraced, the multiplicity and crossover of spoken languages is a daily challenge for actors and theatre makers, leading to a preference for physical performances, which limits the use of text. The production of embodied sound patterns embedded in a text informed the creative process of an experimental production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. It was created with a second-language cast (speakers of Setswana and Afrikaans) whose over-arching goal was to consider the embodied patterns of pre-linguistic expression as a theatre-making tool. When reflecting on their work, the actors indicated that their explorations facilitated a connection with the text in English and generated the relevant dynamics for the play’s sociopolitical themes to be adequately ‘translated’ to a contemporary multilingual South African context. Karina Lemmer is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Performing Arts at Tshwane University of Technology in Gauteng, where she teaches acting and voice. She has directed a number of multilingual productions, including Buried Voices (2018) and Motlotlegi (2019), and has published in the Voice and Speech Review (2018).

Research Article
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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press