Open Forum

1.  Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-19-2017 07:52
I have a very active student in theatre and his grandparent are very active in his life.  However both are deaf so my questions are: How do you handle having a student with a deaf grandparent?  Do you as a club have to hire an interpreter or does your school? 

Charles Puetzer
Math Department
Stage Manager
Michigan City High School
8466 W Pahs Road
Michigan City, IN 46360
(219) 873-2044, ext. 4360

2.  RE: Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-19-2017 11:17
For our musicals we have a performance that is specifically geared for the deaf community. For a single performance we have the show interpreted by the advanced sign language students on campus. They haven't been able to handle the plays because of the difficulty of dropped lines or ad libs that happen whenever someone is covering for whatever "emergency" happened backstage that prevented someone from getting on stage on their cue (I might be a little bit meaner right now... when is summer coming again?). It's been really well received. I designate about 10 rows for the hard of hearing and rehearse the actors with the interpreters to ensure a smooth run.

Another thing I have done (although this person wasn't completely deaf) was provide a copy of the script for use during the show to help with understanding of the lines. She said it was very useful to be able to support her lip reading of the play by following along when necessary.

Shira Schwartz
Chandler Unified School District
Chandler AZ

3.  RE: Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-19-2017 11:26
Doesnt' hurt to ask the school to do something...  don't they have a responsibility to ensure students with disabilities can get an education... isn't this part of that??

[Drama] [Dan] []
[Drama Teacher/Director]
[Dublin Coffman HS]
[Dublin] [Ohio]

4.  RE: Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-20-2017 11:28
You have a legal obligation to provide a translator if they ask for one.

My district has an agreement with a local university to provide translation when necessary. The distrct handles the expense as a cost of doing business.

The translators require a copy of the script in advance as well as access to two dress rehearsals. They need a prominent spot not far from the action of the play that can be lit at all times even during blackouts. The hearing-impaired patrons must be seated so that they can easily see the tanslator as well as the action on stage.

It was pretty easy to deal with and the patrons were so appreciative with how we handled it. It is definitely worth the effort.

Mark A. Zimmerman,

Theatre Director
Akron School for the Arts
Firestone Community Learning Center
470 Castle Blvd
Akron, Ohio 44313

Troupe 5570

5.  RE: Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-20-2017 18:49
We have used a projector to project super titles a few times with great success. Mainly for shows like Miracle Worker and Children of a Lesser God and plays we knew would draw a deaf audience. 

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6.  RE: Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-22-2017 17:51

I think it's great that you're making an active effort to involve the deaf community in your productions!  I cannot claim to be an expert on the legal aspects of hiring an interpreter and who is responsible for that, my apologies, but it sounds like you have several experts here!    

I wanted to mention as you're so close to Mishawaka/South Bend, you might want to contact  Bethel College (incidentally my undergrad alma mater).  They have excellent Sign Language program and their students and faculty regularly interpreted for our theatre productions.  If you are looking to hire someone close by you could inquire.  I don't currently know their policies on freelance work for students because of licensing, but it might be worth a shot?  And if not, they would probably have resources for local interpreters.   

This might be in another direction entirely, but if your student doesn't already know about the Deaf West Theatre Company (, I'd encourage them to check it out!  Their production of Big River was mesmerizing!  Also, my college roommate who went through the previously mentioned program now works in the D.C. area as an interpreter: she and her husband (who is Deaf/Hard of Hearing) introduced me to the Synetic Theatre  ( which produces "Silent Shakespeare" among other productions geared towards the deaf community, among others.  A rather interesting translation of text into other mediums of art!  

Best of luck!  

Sarah Bussard

7.  RE: Deaf Grandparent

Posted 05-24-2017 14:53
The first thing I would do is reach out to our faculty, first checking with the EC teachers.  You may have someone there in your school who does American Sign Language and can find the time to do the necessary prep.

If not, check with your local community and/or professional theatres.  While they probably use someone who would need to be paid, they might know of someone who would sign a school show for no charge, or a reduced charge.

Be aware that even a very good interpreter will need access to the complete script and to attend at least one rehearsal prior to signing a show.

If you do decide to go with an interpreter, you should use the opportunity to publicize that a single performance will be signed.

C. J. Breland
Asheville High School
Asheville NC