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April 20, 2004

CAST signs off on student play

From: Louisville Courier Journal - Louisville,KY,USA - Apr 20, 2004

Rare interpretation for deaf featured in Assumption show

Special to The Courier-Journal

Playing the lead character in Assumption High School's production of "Mother Hicks" meant that Ellen Snell had to learn her lines twice — the second time in sign language.

Ellen, whose character is deaf , said she could not have accomplished that without the help of schoolmates Dori Shaw, 16, and Andi Shaw, 14, whose parents are deaf.

Dori and Andi's mom, Aline Shaw, who taught the girls sign language when they were babies, said, "I'm happy they're able to share our family's culture with other people."

The Shaw sisters say they've tried to help cast members overcome fears and uncertainty about communicating with deaf people.

"It's like when you meet someone who speaks a different language than you, so you're afraid to talk to them," Andi said. "With a deaf person, you can try, and they'll try with you."

Aline Shaw recruited her brother, Timo Owens, a professor in Eastern Kentucky University's Interpreter Training Program at the University of Louisville, to help.

When the play is performed this week, Owens' students will be on stage, standing beside each character and translating the dialogue into sign language for the members of the audience who are deaf. The practice is called "shadow interpretation."

Owens said he agreed to involve his students because shadow interpretation is rarely done, and his students needed some real experience.

"We live in a world with diverse groups of people, and there's nothing wrong with being deaf," said Owens, one of four siblings born deaf. Tammy Clements, an EKU student, interpreted Owens words.

"Mother Hicks" is a story about three outcasts — one is deaf, one is orphaned and one is a shunned midwife — who try to find their place in society.

The actors, who sign at the beginning of the play and at the end, said they see the play as an opportunity to open lines of communication with people who cannot hear.

"I think it will bring in the deaf community to mingle with the hearing community and expand a lot of people's views," said Aaron Dunn, 14, a freshman at St. Xavier High School.

He said he joined the play for the acting experience, but he'll take away much more. "I've delved into the deaf community more than I ever have before. It has really expanded my world," he said.

Director Andrew Harris said working on the play appealed to him because of the interpretive aspect of the performance. He said he always wanted to try the shadow interpretation.

"With the experts on staff in terms of the language, I was quick to say I'd love to be a part of this," he said.

Jane Mattingly, 16, an Assumption student who plays the orphan who befriends Ellen's character, said she has grown comfortable with her shadow. But, she said, "It was kind of weird at first."

For Ellen, playing a deaf character has its challenges. For example, when a loud noise is made, she can't react because she's not supposed to hear. In her real life, Ellen has a mild hearing loss and wears a listening device in school.

She said the Shaw family taught her everything she knows about sign language, which has sparked an interest in many of the cast members to want to learn more.

"It will be a good skill in my life to use if I meet people who are deaf," she said.

If you go

Assumption High School's Rose Theater Company will present "Mother Hicks" beginning Thursday at the school, 2170 Tyler Lane. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 for students and $7 for adults.

Sign language students from Eastern Kentucky University's Interpreter Training Program at the University of Louisville will provide translation.

Copyright 2004 The Courier-Journal.