Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Dream, in Sign Language

Summer is the season of Shakespeare in the park, and I can't possibly write about all the stories that come across my newsfeed. However, I wanted to give a special shout out to this Rochester production of A Midsummer Night's Dream:

Haggerty describes this "Midsummer Night's Dream" production as "history-making." A senior lecturer in the theater department at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Haggerty is directing the play with a double cast of hearing and deaf actors — 33 people in all. Each role is played by a voicing actor, who has a signing (American Sign Language) actor assigned to him or her. So there are two languages in use onstage simultaneously: Shakespeare's, and American Sign Language.
While I certainly think that this is a step beyond "have a translator standing at the edge of the stage", I think this is the more "history making" part:
The fairy characters communicate in sign language, because they cannot speak to the human characters. But they do sign to one another what it is that the humans are saying. Among themselves, the fairies sign to each other, and voiced actors reenact what the fairies are thinking and signing for the audience.
So then if I understand it correctly, the sign language translation is actually performed by the fairies (who, presumably, are going to be onstage throughout the play)?  And that the fairies' lines will be signed first, and then "translated" into speech by the other actors?  I love how that idea equalizes the two languages.

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