The Performance Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg….And Other Things You Should Know Before Hiring A Theatre Interpreter

23 Jul 2015, by Auslan Stage Left in Articles

Are you a theatre maker that loved watching the Eurovision interpreter? Or maybe you just couldn’t get enough of #SignGuy on the news! Maybe you loved watching this ASL interpreter channel Eminem.  Either way, it’s time to put on your show, and you’ve decided to provide an Auslan interpreter to make your show accessible to the Deaf community.  Great job! But before we get this show on the road, here’s the top five things you should know before hiring an Auslan interpreter for your show!


1. The Performance Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg


Interpreters Michelle Ashley and Melissa Martin rehearse for ‘Disney on Ice’.

Would you ask an actor to jump onstage and perform without a single rehearsal? Or a musical theatre performer to dance without ever being taught the steps? It’s not only irresponsible, it’s impossible!  And that’s just how it is with Auslan interpreting.  If you want a high quality, polished performance from your interpreters, they are going to have to put in hours of work before they step on to the stage.  Interpreters are aware of this, and will ask lots of questions — they’ll want to see a script, a recording of the show, or a rehearsal.  This will contribute to the best possible interpreting that will convey your show as accurately as possible to the deaf audience.


Time is key, so if you’re considering having your show interpreted, contact an organisation like Auslan Stage Left well in advance.  There is no such thing as too much preparation, but it is possible that your job will be turned down if there is no time for interpreters to prepare for your show.


2. One is Hard Work, Two is Company


Interpreters Susan Emerson and Daniel Hately rehearse for ‘The Lion King’.

Be aware that your show may be a job for more than one interpreter.  It would be a big ask for one interpreter to tackle a show like Les Miserables — all those songs! All those characters! All those story lines! A one-man musical is a big ask, and so is a one-person interpreting job.  If your show or event is long in duration, has lots of characters, and includes songs, chances are it will require more than one interpreter.  What does this mean for you? The performance will be much clearer and easy to follow for a deaf audience.  Working in a team means that the work can be shared, relieving pressure for interpreters and subsequently for you!


At Auslan Stage Left we also aim to also hire a language consultant for every show we can.  A language consultant is a member of the deaf community with a rich understanding of Auslan, who assists in the translation process and helps interpreters in their preparation work.  Between the interpreters and the language consultant, your show is sure to be not only a hit with the hearing audience but make an equally great impression on the deaf audience.


3. Hearing Patrons (And Casts!) Enjoy It Too

The stars of Dirty Dancing with interpreters Mike Webb and Maree Madden and language consultant Rachelle Stevens.

While providing access is a fantastic thing, you will also be sharing sign language with audience members who may never have seen it before. In the experience of Auslan Stage Left patron Todd McKenney, it is also enjoyable for your cast!  He says:


“It’s great seeing the other cast members who perhaps haven’t come across interpreting or sign language very much in their lives seeing how powerful it is and how beautiful it is. That’s great, watching them discover it.”


It is a valuable skill for any performer to learn how to work with interpreters, and your cast will enjoy their experience.  And don’t forget sign language students who will relish the opportunity to come along and see interpreters in action.   Providing an Auslan interpreter will not isolate or discourage a hearing audience, it will open them up to a whole new theatre-going experience, as Todd says,


“If I know a show is being signed, even if I’ve seen it before, I’ll grab one of my friends and we’ll go and see ‘The Lion King’ again because we know it’s the day that it’s signed, because you get a bit more of what’s happening onstage… I would urge people, if they get the opportunity, to see a signed show. Go and see it, because it’s different to signed conversation. It’s a real performance, you know, it’s expressive, and it’s beautiful.”


4. Let the Deaf Community Know What’s Happening!


Interpreter Julie Judd onstage with Em Rusciano.

After all your hard work, you’re going to want to make sure you get the news about your fantastic accessible show out to as many people as possible!  When you make your show accessible through Auslan Stage Left, you also gain access to our promotional network.  We’ll feature your show on our website, Twitter and Facebook, as well as in our newsletter, which is read by hundreds of members of the deaf community every week.  You can always use our hashtag #AuslanStageLeft on Instagram and Twitter so we can keep up to date with your process behind the signs!


But we’re not the only avenue for connecting with the deaf community!  Make sure you get in touch with Deaf Arts Network and Arts Access Victoria and tell them all about your Auslan accessible show.


5. It’s Always ‘Worth It’


Dave Hughes and interpreter Adrian Priem with Deaf audience members.

Production companies and independent practitioners may wonder if it’s ‘worth’ spending money on an interpreter, and demand that ticket sales rise as a result of making their show accessible. What is easy to forget is that on any given evening in Melbourne, hearing people have many theatre options, while deaf people don’t have the same easy access, let alone such a huge number of shows to choose from.  Any show that provides access gets deaf people closer to having that same smorgasbord of choice that hearing people have so they can enjoy theatre and develop their own tastes. Remember when you first saw that one show that got you hooked on theatre? Maybe yours is the show that will get a deaf person addicted that same way.


And in the words of Todd McKenney:


“…the hard work is with the interpreters. The producers should just see it, I think, as another idea to sell a few more tickets! And that’s their business, it’s to sell tickets, and so I can’t see where the problem is. Even if you just get two people – get two people!”


Now that you know the basics, you’re ready to make your show accessible!  Contact us at Auslan Stage Left and start the conversation by clicking here.

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