PHILADELPHIA American Sign Language interpreters for the next stage production at Indian River Central School have moved out of the spotlight and into the shadows.
Shadow interpreting will be used when the high schools drama club presents Arsenic and Old Lace. The classic black comedy will be staged Friday and Saturday but the shadow interpreters will perform on Saturday only.
This style of interpreted theater is found in limited areas of the country, and rarely in New York, said Kristie L. Fuller, theater manager and theater teacher.
Mrs. Fuller said the schools musical and a drama were interpreted for the deaf community last year.
But it was traditional interpretation, where you had the (American Sign Language) interpreter down front, she said.
Mrs. Fuller works with Michelle Maphey, ASL interpreter, who is also the director of Watertown-based Aldebaran Interpreting Services. They got their theater degrees together at SUNY Potsdam.
We looked at different ways we could reach the deaf community, but to do something a little bit more artistic, Mrs. Fuller said.
The pair discovered Detroit-based Terp Theater, which specializes in shadow interpreting. The troupe provides training on the method and some members were brought to Indian River High School in August.
Their visit was funded by a theater award Mrs. Fuller received. In August, she traveled to Lexington, Ky., to accept the Reba R. Robertson Award. The award celebrates outstanding public high school drama teachers. The Childrens Theater Foundation said it is the only national honor in the field of drama education. Mrs. Fuller received $6,000 to expand her professional interests. Indian River also received $1,000 to enhance its theater program.
The idea is that the interpreters are actually on stage as characters, Mrs. Fuller said. The deaf audience doesnt have to look on stage and then look back to the side for it to be interpreted and then go back and forth to the stage.
There will be two shadow interpreters: Mrs. Maphey and Maureen Moose, a freelance interpreter from Potsdam.
We decided that they will play ghosts of the dead women who have already been killed and buried in the cellar, Mrs. Fuller said.
Joseph Kesselrings madcap macabre comedy features a host of memorable characters: spinster aunts who compassionately serve poisoned elderberry wine to lonely gentlemen; their nephew, a theater-hating drama critic; another nephew who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and a third who is an escaped convict with a ghoulish sidekick. The home in the play has a cellar containing the remains of socially and religiously acceptable roomers.
The play which ran on Broadway from 1941 to 1944 and was revived in 1986 and 87 was made into a movie in 1944 directed by Frank Capra and starring Cary Grant.
Mrs. Fuller, who co-directs the play with Phillip Dyke, said the shadow interpreters have learned to blend in with the scenes so their presence is not jarring for the other actors.
Some of the characters on stage see these ghost-like characters and some of them dont, she said. Its made for some really fun interaction.
Mrs. Fuller said theres a bigger deaf community in the area than people realize.
We not only wanted to meet that need, but its such a beautiful artform to watch, ASL, and to see it this way on stage has been really exciting.
She added that the project has brought another benefit she didnt see coming.
Its gotten some of the students interested in maybe pursuing an ASL degree and doing some interpreting and stage acting in that way, she said.
The cast of the Indian River High School Drama Clubs production of Arsenic and Old Lace:
Cassie Slough as Abby Brewster; Aurora Adams as Martha Brewster; Dale Hajdasz as Teddy Brewster; John Moran as Mortimer Brewster; Sierra Hicks as Elaine Harper; Kenny Brennan as Jonathan Brewster; Nikki Marshall as Mrs. Harper; Brian Walsh as officer Brophy; Wayne Landreth as officer Klein; Deanna Chavez as Mrs. Gibbs; Morgan Lightner as Dr. Einstein; Rebecca Oster as officer OHara; Katie Emberton as Lt. Rooney; Katherine Zebrowski as Mrs. Witherspoon; Chris Bjornsstad, Sierra Brown and Anthony Weldon as dead bodies; and Michelle Maphey and Maureen Moose as shadow interpreters.