KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University’s Theatre program and a couple of partners will allow audiences, especially those who are hard of hearing, to enjoy their next performance at Shaw Theatre on campus.
Instead of standing next to the stage during the performance of “Clue,” two sign language interpreters from Ann Arbor-based company Stage Hands will be alongside the cast.
“How is somebody supposed to be seeing the action of the show if they’re constantly focused on the side, which is where we’ve kind of always plopped the ASL interpreters?” director Mark Liermann said. “So the thought of having that involved in the production itself was fascinating to me.”
He added they’re not just interpreting the dialogue between the characters.
“They are performing all of the actions and all of the emotional context of the story as well, so it’s not just a dry interpretation. They are fabulous performers,” Liermann explained.
The cast agrees, especially Donovan Boursiquot Wade, who plays Wadsworth in the show.
“I’m going to use them as much as I can,” he said. “If there is an opportunity for (one of the interpreters) to jump into in my arms, or for me to teach him and move him this way, or for him to make eye contact with me, we’re going to take advantage of that for sure.”
The concept, a first for Kalamazoo, was made possible by Theatre Kalamazoo and the Jim Gilmore Junior Foundation. It’s also the focus of student Kiara Durbin’s thesis.
“(The audience is) really getting to see the action and what you’re hearing from everyone else,” she said. “Their whole experience is elevated and enhanced.”
Durbin, a senior majoring in acting and minoring in American Sign Language, believes the two fields can be bridged.
“Instead of it just being this one little thing… how do we move forward with this work?” she said. “I think that’s a question that is really exciting that the community is getting to think about.”
While “Clue” runs from Nov. 10 through 19, the lone shadow-interpreted performance is scheduled for Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.