Polina Shafran. Photo by Chris Vernon


By Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2015 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Louisville can boast an entire community of home grown theatre artists, and more than a few that have relocated from other cities in the United States, but  a much smaller number have found their way here from other countries; Polina Shafran is one. Born in Russia, she came of age in Israel after moving there with her family, and then came to Louisville about five years ago.

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Shafran as Olwen in J.B. Priestley’s “Dangerous Corner”, Israel, 2009.

The move pulled Shafran away from an active creative life with the now-defunct Mosaic Theatre; a group led by 2 other Russian-born émigrés from St. Petersburg. The company mounted productions in the Russian language, which was a change for Shafran, who had only studied acting in Hebrew in Israel. “Acting in a 2nd or 3rd language adds one more technical layer to your performance,” says Shafran. “The ‘musicality’ of each language is quite different.”

Now Shafran is about to perform in her own translation of Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal as a part of a program of two Chekhov vaudevilles that introduce a new theatre company, The Chamber Theatre. She is also Co-Artistic Director with Martin French, himself an Irish émigré, and their mission is to focus on minimalist productions of modern classics from the mid 19th century and moving forward.

Shafran’s motivation to translate The Proposal comes, in part, because she didn’t see anyone producing Chekhov in Louisville. While working on Macbeth with Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company a few seasons ago, her director, Barrett Cooper, encouraged her to take matters in hand by doing her own translation of the short comedy.

She spent more than six months working on the translation. “The challenge is to capture the character of the play without modernizing the language too much, while still attempting to make it contemporary enough for the ear of a modern audience.” Shafran had translated English to Hebrew but this was her first time translating Russian to English.

The Proposal was put in a drawer for about 2 years, until Shafran worked with Martin French in a production at The Alley Theater. They discovered they shared like-minded sensibilities and similar theatrical ambitions and eventually Shafran presented French with her Chekhov script. Thus was born The Chamber Theatre.

French and Shafran together adapted Julius West’s translation of another Chekhov short comedy, or “vaudeville”, The Boor. French directs and three players, Gerry Rose, Tom Pettey, and Shafran are cast in each play.

Two Vaudvilles by Anton Chekhov – The Boor, and The Proposal. 

January 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, & 23 @ 7.30pm
Jan. 18-Industry Night / Post Show Discussion “Lifting Chekhov from the Page”
Jan. 21 -Post Show Discussion “Translating and Adapting Chekhov”

Tickets $12 / $10 on Industry Night (Monday Jan 18th)
Group rates available

(502) 724-6968 or thechambertheatre@gmail.com

The Chamber Theatre
Vault 1031
1031 Sixth Street
Louisville, KY 40203


KeithKeith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.