Shadows for Peter Pan
By Donna Ellis and Brian Morrison from Hands UP Productions
In order to bring the magical story Peter Pan alive for a Deaf audience, Hands UP Productions and the Arden collaborated on a shadow interpreted performance that brought three sign language interpreters onstage and made them part of the action. As opposed to the more ‘traditional’ method of having the interpreters standing off to the side with the action taking place behind them, shadow interpreting brings the interpreters on to the stage while they ‘shadow’ their characters. The result is an exciting performance that allows the Deaf audience the opportunity to experience the play on a level equal to the audience members that can hear.
In order to make this happen, the interpreters; Donna Ellis, Katie MacKavanagh, and Brian Morrison participated in rehearsals with the cast and crew. This was truly a collaborative experience and the excitement for creating the performance was shared by all. The cast learned some of their lines in American Sign Language and worked with the interpreters to find ways to interact with their ‘shadows’. You could feel the creative energy in the room during both rehearsals and the performance.
Having worked with the Arden last year in the first shadowed performance, A Year With Frog and Toad, the Arden is quickly moving toward the forefront in accessible theatre for Deaf audience members. Hands UP has encountered nothing but wonderful experiences with everyone from the Arden staff and the cast and crews of every show we have interpreted there. We look forward to continuing this incredible relationship in bringing unique and creative theatre experiences for Deaf and hearing audiences alike.
At right, Jacqueline Real (Wendy) and Chris Bresky (Peter) with Cade and Cal who attended the shadow-interpreted performance.
I am a disability rights attorney and life-lone disability rights advocate, and am thrilled to see the Arden presenting productions that are accessible to wider audiences. However, I recently attended the Peter Pan show, and at least from our seats (Section A, at the far end), the sign intepreters really interfered with the show. There were many instances in which I couldn't see the actors because their "shadow" was blocking the view. I don't know the first thing about the ins and outs of adapting a theater performance for a hearing impaired audience, but I would think that the experience for those benefiting from the sign interpreters wouldn't be all that much hindered if the interpreters stood more towards the rear of the stage, rather than side-by-side with their characters. But I'm open to hearing out why this wasn't/couldn't be an equally effective way of adapting the performance.