To attend or not to attend… that is the question

01 Mar 2016, by Auslan Stage Left in Articles

By Christy Filipich

I get asked to interpret a lot of theatre, and I attend a lot of interpreted theatre. I suspect those two things are linked. There are several reasons I attend interpreted performances and none are because I can claim it on tax or on my NAATI revalidation. Yes, you can do both of those things but there are so many other great reasons to attend interpreted theatre.

Gaining strategies and tools! No theatrical production is like any other. The challenges can be unique and how you deal with those challenges will differ depending on the production, script, director, actors, venue, and audience. As such, we need a whole range of strategies to deal with those challenges, whether the challenge is in the translation or a logistical challenge such as positioning and lighting. The best way to gain those strategies is to see how your colleagues deal with them in a range of theatrical events. Then, when you’re faced with a similar challenge, you’ll have seen how it has been dealt with in a variety of ways and can choose one that will be appropriate for the particular production you’re involved with. If we’re working in silos, we don’t know what else is possible.

Getting to know colleagues! Interpreting is often a lonely profession and if we don’t see our colleagues working at public events, the first time we’re teamed with someone may be the first time we’ve seen them interpret, or even sign. Go and see your colleagues working, you’ll have a better idea of their style, and their translation choices, when you do end up working with them.

Getting to know venues! Knowing the capacity of different venues, the seating, the staging, the lighting, even just where it is and how to get there, can answer many of the questions and logistical challenges you’ll be faced with. It can also be useful when negotiating positioning, lighting, and audience seating, if you can refer to previous interpreted performances. I’ve been told certain things are impossible until I’ve mentioned that the exact same thing was done for a previous event.

Getting to know theatre companies! Theatre companies are usually known for a particular kind of theatre. In Perth it’s known that X theatre will be geared towards children, Y theatre will involve puppetry, and Z theatre will probably involve naked people swearing! Before seeing a script, you have a pretty good idea of the kinds of themes that will be addressed and who the audience is likely to be. Seeing past productions by the theatre company also gives a shared experience and language in which to discuss translation choices, lighting, staging, etc. If you can talk about their past shows, particularly past interpreted shows, then you’re half way there in negotiations. Also, directors like it when you praise their previous work, so go see what they’ve done, get them on side and it’ll make it easier to negotiate.

Getting to know actors! Again, it’s part of that shared theatrical experience, as well as knowing who the players are, what their acting range is, what their voices sound like. In my experience, if the actors are on side, it can be easier to negotiate with the director, and they may be willing to take additional advice on how to ensure Deaf audiences are included beyond just sticking an interpreter to the side. Actors also like it when you praise their previous work, so go see them do stuff!

Support your colleagues! I’ve interpreted to ‘empty’ rooms more times than I can count and it can be incredibly disheartening to have worked so hard on translating and rehearsing a theatrical piece and to have no one in the audience who benefits or appreciates the effort. Hearing audiences can say all kinds of nice things, but with no real understanding of the process it tends to be meaningless. A thumbs up from a colleague who understands the process and knows the hours you spent working out how to translate that one line – priceless.
Support the Deaf Community! The more tickets sold to an Auslan Interpreted event, the more interpreted shows there are and the better the access for the Deaf Community. While we may think a show should be interpreted if even just 1 person in the Deaf Community needs access, that’s unfortunately not how it’s seen by the industry. They need to see that it’s worthwhile and to them that means numbers of tickets sold.

So buy a ticket, claim it on tax, reap the benefits of peer observation, gain knowledge about venues and theatre companies, then claim it on your NAATI revalidation. You’re supporting the theatre community, your colleagues, your own learning and the Deaf Community – with all of those great reasons, why would you not attend interpreted theatre?

I also attend theatre performances that aren’t interpreted for many of the same reasons, but also because I enjoy seeing theatre. I see shows by specific companies that I know produce great work. There are a couple of local actors I will always go to see in a production. And I see shows just because they look interesting. If you don’t enjoy theatre performances unless you’re on the stage, perhaps theatre interpreting isn’t for you…

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  • Dani Pritchard Reply

    All very apt points. Hear hear!

  • Jodielyn Reply

    So second time lucky
    Great blog Christy 🙂
    Another point would be great for students studying Auslan or Diploma of Interpreting for all the reasons you stated above (except the tax and revalidation).
    It may inspire some to pursue a career in theatre interpreting once accredited.
    Or they realise that’s not the path they want to take.
    Either way it’s a wonderful experience… Well for me it has been

  • Leanne Reply

    Great comments, Christy. I completely concur. We have very similar ideals. I love the theatre and i love to share the theatre experience. Well done.

  • Hilary Reply

    I just happened to be in Sydney for the Burlesque idol interpreted by the fabulous Katie Hinton it was fantastic !!! Living in Northern NSW I rarely get to see interpreted theatre. Yes Cristy every benefit you covered in your blog was apparent. An added bonus was seeing people from the Deaf community I hadn’t see for a long time and meeting some really cool new people too thanks all!!