As long as there has been language, there has been theatre. Ancient rituals were the first to introduce the idea of theatre as interpretation, when they acted scenarios out in order to communicate stories of folklore. The practice followed through Ancient Greece and early Christianity. Works from these eras still exist today, and there has been a longstanding need for interpreters to keep these classic works in current languages.
The need and demand for ASL interpreters in theatre is constantly changing as art and culture advance. Works from the past will always need new translations, but what about the work of today? Simultaneous interpretation can be found at most live theatre events, but no longer just to the side of the stage. Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles has been redefining interpretation in theatre for years. Well known for their Tony nominated revival of Big River, the company also revived Spring Awakening last year. Director Michael Arden said of the production, “I’d like people to have a bit more knowledge about deaf culture and ASL as a language. Specifically, how art and theatre can break barriers. Working with both deaf and hearing people makes the show in a sense, bilingual. It forces us to come together.”
Deaf West’s productions feature interpreters and actors working side by side together onstage, singing, dancing, acting and signing. As we continue to move forward as a culture, language remains a currently changing industry. Just think, the first deaf school in the US was established in 1817 and now ASL is the 4th most spoken language in the country! With all the industry-to-industry crossover, the options for interpreters and potential interpreters are truly endless.