Interpreted my first Shakespeare play!

A lot has happened since I last wrote a blog post, but this post is about how I interpreted my first Shakespeare play.

I had been preparing to interpret The Merchant of Venice for the Southwest Shakespeare Company at the Mesa Arts Center since early March, but after I presented my workshop at the Arizona RID State Conference at the end of March, I got to work on Merchant in ernest.

My co-interpreter, Sandra Solomon, who had already interpreted four shows for SW Shakespeare Co., met with me several times to rehearse interpreting the show. We corresponded with Missy Keast, our ASL Producer, via e-mail and met with her over videoconference to show her some of our interpreting and get her feedback, which was very beneficial. (Sandra came to my house and we sat together in front of my iMac with built-in iSight camera and used iChat to connect to Missy in Hawaii, since she also has a Mac with built in iSight and iChat. I only wish we’d been able to do this more than once.)

In addition to meeting a few times at each other’s homes to discuss the play and rehearse, Sandra and I interpreted four performances of the show at the Mesa Arts Center before actually interpreting it for an ASL audience on Saturday, April 18 at 2 PM. There were about a dozen people who came to the show specifically to see us, so that was a good turnout. I only wish there had been deaf people in the audience, but as much as I got the word out, there were none.

How did I get the word out, you ask? Well, in quite a few ways: Sandra & I each brought fliers to our respective workplaces at Sorenson VRS and Purple Communications. We also left them on the Arizona RID table at the Arizona RID Conference. I gave a stack of fliers to Robin Dragoo, the president of Arizona RID, and he put them on the Arizona RID table at the DeafNation Expo at the Phoenix Convention Center. In addition to that, I created an event on Facebook to publicize the interpreted performance and invite all the deaf people I know who live locally and are on Facebook, but alas, none of those people came. Still, about a dozen people came to see us perform our interpretations, and several of them were ASL interpreters who will no doubt benefit from our work and use it to inform their own theatrical interpreting, which will in turn benefit other audiences.

I strongly believe there is a positive ripple effect in this that is a good thing for the community as a whole– for the hearing world to see that SW Shakespeare offers interpreted performances, for local deaf people to see that it was available (and maybe they’ll come another time?), and for local interpreters to add to their professional development by interpreting (in our case) or watching (in the case of our colleagues) an ASL-interpreted Shakespeare play.

I know, for myself, that interpreting Shakespeare forced me to work on conveying meaning while dropping form. Let’s just say that I am proud of all the words I didn’t sign. It was a pleasure to be able to convey Shakespeare’s language in a way that was understandable yet retained a touch of his creative spark.

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

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