Theatre, ASL Interpreting departments partner for shadow-interpreted spring play 

Home Variety Theatre, ASL Interpreting departments partner for shadow-interpreted spring play 
Theatre, ASL Interpreting departments partner for shadow-interpreted spring play 
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Photo by Ericka Sura. Wayne Matthews, director of the play, gives instructions to the theatre and ASL students.


Collaboration seeks to reach diverse communities through bilingual production

The theatre department’s spring play is exploring elements of production never before seen at North Central. Partnering with the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting department, the theatre department is producing a shadow interpreted play.

The production is “The Importance of Being Earnest,” a story about a man, Jack, who has created an imaginary brother, Ernest, who lives a life full of scandal as he pursues a life fully lived. Jack uses this fake sibling as his alibi to disappear for a couple short days to help his “brother,” allowing Jack to vicariously live the adventurous life he tells people his brother lives. The story tells the tales that encapsulate Jack’s life and his fake sibling.

The new addition of shadow interpreters has created much excitement within the theatre department. “[The interpreters] add so much new fun and new things to the stage that normally wouldn’t be there,” said Joshua Peterson, a senior theatre major. “It’s like having another me that I can play off of and do some really funny things with.” Peterson will be seen in the play as Algernon Moncrieff, interpreted by Tim Puch. Other lead actors include Adam Kordell, Grace Dunavan and Annie O’Niel. Main interpreters include Will Ross, Mckenzie Dufault and Sharla Bickel.

Last fall, a few North Central ASL interpreting majors asked Wayne Matthews, the director of the play, if he would ever consider incorporating shadow interpreting into one of the plays. Matthews began conducting research to further understand their idea and explore the possibility of integrating it into future shows. In plays that use shadow interpreting, an ASL interpreter shadows each actor, so rather than one or two individuals interpreting the whole show, each actor is interpreted by a different person.

After his research, Matthews decided to proceed with the idea. “I’m an advocate that the place of theatre is a place that breaks down barriers and walls between people, ideas, communities, and racial barriers,” he said.

In past years, the theatre department has performed plays in honor of Black History Month and other shows that push people to think differently or incorporate new things. They are excited to do it again.

The bilingual play has been a new experience for all involved, said Matthews. There is twice the amount of people on the stage, which adds a new level of blocking. Bill Ross, associate professor in the ASL-Interpreting department, has attended most of the rehearsals to assist the interpreters phrase lines in ways that are understood to the deaf community.

To spread word of this bilingual performance, the ASL-interpreting and theatre departments have marketed the play to the deaf community in the Twin Cities. They are excited to see the reaction of the community outside of North Central, as this type of theatre is a rarity.

“This is a wonderful way for us to say that the deaf community is important; that we care about you,” Matthews said.

The play will be performed March 24-April 2. The show times vary per date and tickets can be purchased online or at the door.