When deaf students are mainstreamed into regular classes, they need a skilled sign-language interpreter, says Rob Hills, director of the ASL-English Interpretation Program (AEIP) at LaGuardia Community College in New York. With a grant from the U.S. Education Department, the college will train more interpreters to work in school settings.
AEIP applicants need an associate degree, such as LCC’s degree in deaf studies and ASL. While in the program, they can earn a bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies: ASL-English Interpretation through a partnership with Empire State College.
Romeo can hear and Juliet is deaf in a new version of Shakespeare’s play on stage at the Community College of Aurora in Colorado. Actors will use American Sign Language (ASL) and Shakespearean verse.
“This experience will engage both deaf and hearing audiences as the fateful pair discovers a connection beyond language,” says director Stacey D’Angelo, who runs the college’s theater program.
The cast is made up of 30 actors, including five ASL “shadow” interpreters; 23 are CCA students, including one who is deaf. Five deaf performers and two ASL interpreters from the area also are participating.
Both of D’Angelo’s paternal grandparents were deaf from birth. After selecting Romeo and Juliet as the college’s fall production, D’Angelo attended her grandmother’s funeral.
There, she was struck by her immersion in both hearing and deaf cultures, because, while growing up, social outings with family were usually one or the other. “I had been searching for a unique way to illustrate the divide between the Montagues and Capulets, and it came to me that day,” she explains.
. . . The characters of Juliet, Lady Capulet, Tybalt, and Paris will be played by deaf actors who will perform in ASL. To achieve a universal experience for both deaf and hearing audiences, the characters will be doubled with hearing actors who will serve as their “speaking voice.” During the Romeo and the Montague scenes, which will be spoken aloud, a team of ASL interpreters will be in the background, signing the play for deaf audiences.
“We all learn sign language at each rehearsal,” D’Angelo says. “We all have had to develop a unique means to communicate and stage this play.”
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival casts a deaf actor, Howie Seago, who communicates in sign language, in a variety of supporting roles. It works remarkably well.