penny black


I originally attended drama school (Schauspielschule Krauss) in Vienna whilst living over there. On my return to the UK, I discovered my talent lay more with the text itself. My first translation was YES, MY FUEHRER/Brigitte Schwaiger, produced for the Edinburgh Festival in 1996, which universally received ***** and the actress shortlisted for the very first Stage Award for Excellence; my latest play was Elfriede Jelinek’s marathon SPORTS PLAY,  which  toured the UK before being chosen as a Cultural Olympics Pop Up event last year - it will be going to Brazil as part of the pre-World Cup cultural events in 2014.

 By now I think I have translated about 40 plays for a variety of theatres such as the Royal Court, the Gate, the National Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, White Bear, Arcola Theatre as well as venues in America and Australia.  (See bibliography) In between times, I translate theatre and festival programmes for large-scale festivals such as the RUHR2010 Capital of Culture, Ruhrtriennale and Theater der Welt and organisations such as the Goethe-Institut, International Theatre Institute in Germany,  and PACT Zollverein.

My first original play MAKING BABIES, which looks at IVF and all aspects of fertility, was originally produced in 2004 in Heilbronn. SUDDEN SILENCE, about the effects of stroke and the methods used in recovery, was seen in 2009 at the Arcola Theatre. I have written two plays for The Miniaturists, SEE NO EVIL and HONEY, I’M HOME, a comedy set entirely in the dark, and I am  presently adapting a novel by the Scottish-Iraqi writer Betool Khedairi entitled HUMAN HONEY.

As literary manager of the Gate Theatre from 2003 to 2005, I managed two Culture 2000-funded five-country translation projects, including weekend symposia for European theatre-makers, as well as the bi-annual Gate Translation Award. From 2009 to spring 2012 I was the Project-Co-ordinator for Theatre, Literature and Dance at the Goethe-Institut, London, work here included organising events such as the legendary NIGHT FOR GERMAN LOVERS, which hosted guests like Ian McEwan, A S Byatt, Brian Sewell, Mark Ravenhill and Dominic Cooke;  and AFTER THE FALL, a 16-country play-commission project for 2009 to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was also responsible for all English-language text that went into the public domain.

My interest in Arabic-speaking theatre was sparked by an invitation from the British Council to produce a play by Syrian Mamduh Adwan at the National Theatre in Damascus. Diector Rima Brihi and I set up an organisation to introduce Arabic-speaking playwrights and directors to the UK. Projects included a seminar on Arabic-speaking directors at RADA together with the University of Hull, workshops on text with young performers for RBKC, and work in advisory capacity with various organisations.

I am presently president of the Dramaturgs' Network and the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes.

More information about the Dramaturgs' Network here:
dramturgs network logo