I was reading the program before a Chicago Shakespeare Theater performance when I saw the note about American Sign Language (ASL) Duo-interpreter performances and Access Shakespeare programming. A family friend who is hearing-impaired is always looking for ASL shows so she can participate in live theater. Intrigued by the ASL shows, I emailed the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to ask about the preparation required to add ASL interpretation to a Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) performance.
CST’s Hannah Kennedy noted that ASL interpretation is really more of an art form in itself than many people may realize. She explained that CST shares its version of the script and an audio recording from a run-through of a performance about a month prior to the ASL show. The interpreters then spend about 100 hours working together to divvy up characters, re-interpret the script and practice for timing. There are always two interpreters, allowing moments of dialogue to be expressed as an actual conversation in ASL and lends to the performative nature of the interpretation.
The ASL interpreters have to completely memorize the entire production. What Hannah finds most interesting is the way in which the interpreters are very conscious to capture the poetic and literary elements of speech, without altering the timing. This is a big part of the ASL experience. Ideally, any audience member relying on the interpretation would get the punch line of a joke or be caught by surprise at the same time as the rest of the audience. This level of attention makes for incredibly artistic choices.
There are ASL performances for all CST productions. Upcoming ASL performances include:
Arthur Laurents’, Jule Styne’s and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy* Friday, March 7, 2014, 7:30 p.m. Directed by Gary Griffin Interpreted by: Michael Albert (CI/CT) and Susan Sotnick (NIC)
Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream 75-minute abridged production for families Saturday, March 8, 2014, 11:00 a.m. Directed by David H. Bell Interpreted by Elizabeth Bartlow Breslin (CI/CT) and Michael Albert (CI/CT)
Stephen Sondheim’s and John Weidman’s Road Show* Friday, April 11, 2014, 7:30 p.m. Directed by Gary Griffin Interpreted by Elizabeth Bartlow Breslin (CI/CT) and Sheila Kettering (CI/CT)
William Shakespeare’s Henry V* Friday, June 6, 2014, 7:30 p.m. Directed by Christopher Luscombe Interpreted by Elizabeth Bartlow Breslin (CI/CT) and Will Lee (NIC) –
You can find more information about ASL performances at http://www.chicagoshakes.com/your_visit/access/hearing.