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October 1, 2005

Sign Interpreter Brings 3 Shows To Deaf Audiences

From: Tyler Morning Telegraph - Tyler,TX,USA - Oct 1, 2005


Although Edie Feliciano has been attending the East Texas State Fair since she was a little girl, as a deaf woman, she could never fully understand the live shows at the fairgrounds.

This year, however, the fair provided a professional sign language interpreter who attended three live shows Saturday and signed the speaker's words for the deaf community.

"It's so much better than sitting and just watching without knowing," Ms. Feliciano said, with the aid of an interpreter. "It makes the show more interesting."

Melissa Bell, regional specialist for Communication Services for the Deaf, saw the need for an interpreter when she went to a hypnotist's performance at the 2004 fair.

"I wondered, 'Where is the interpreter?'" Mrs. Bell said. "Interpreters are a need, they are important, and they are appreciated."

She sent questionnaires out into the deaf community, asking if they would like to have an interpreter at the 2005 fair, and the response was tremendously positive.

Teaming up with the East Texas Center for Independent Living, the Tyler Metro Association for the Deaf and fair General Manager Alice Emmons, professional interpreter Troy Brown was hired for the job of interpreting at Razzle Dazzle, Gary Roberts' magic show and the Trinity Lutheran Giggles & Praise clown and puppet show.

Brown said there is a particular challenge in interpreting performances, because he wants to convey all the excitement, the jokes and the various subtleties that the performer intends for the rest of the audience.

"You try to fit the spirit of the event, try to match the mood," he said. "I've not had a lot of opportunities to do this, but I do enjoy it."

Brown watched early performances by Razzle Dazzle and Roberts to prepare for the events, but he said he does have to improvise with unscripted shows.

As he interpreted at Roberts' magic show, his expressions were lively and his gestures spirited. No little joke was missed on the deaf audience, and viewers said they enjoyed the show very much.

"They get to be involved," Brown said. "They get to be a part of it now."

Mrs. Bell sees the presence of interpreters as a "confidence builder" for the deaf community.

"It's all about empowering the deaf community to speak out about what they want in our community," she said. "This is so deaf people can get equal access."

She agreed with several members of the deaf audience when she said she hopes the fair makes sign-language interpretation an annual tradition.

Rosie Hoffman, a newcomer to the fair, also said she enjoyed having interpreters at the shows.

"I want to thank the interpreters and all the deaf people," she said. "Now they can watch it and understand it. It's more enjoyable this year."

Lindsay Randall covers Henderson and Van Zandt counties. She can be reached at 903.596.6284. e-mail:

©Tyler Morning Telegraph 2005