ASL Interpreted performance at Portland StageIn April, Pine Tree Society’s Interpreting Services team partnered with Portland Stage to provide American Sign Language interpreting for their performance of The Niceties.

“Imagine watching TV without sound. That’s what watching this play without ASL interpretation would have been like for me,” said audience member Lisette. “I would have been looking at the actions and just hoping to understand.”

Lisette enjoys going to live theatre and finds that plays are more focused on dialogue than action, which makes it very hard to follow without interpretation.

“The Niceties was an intense play that hit on many hot button issues around racism and discrimination,” noted Maura Nolin, Director of Interpreting Services at Pine Tree Society. “The interpreters worked to interpret those issues and ideas effectively to be sure the nuances were carried through.”

The interpreters prepare by studying the script and attending performances. When possible, they also watch video or listen to audio recordings of the production.Pine Tree Society sign language interpreters at Portland Stage

“They make sure they understand the goals of the play first, then they begin to build an interpretation,” Maura continued. “For example, there are two signs for the United States Constitution. They discuss each sign and determine which is the best fit so both interpreters are using the same sign.”

For Lisette, the theme of racial oppression and the discussion back and forth between the two characters left her thinking about discrimination in a general sense and the parallels with what people with disabilities and people who are Deaf face in society.

“These were the two best interpreters I have ever seen doing a play,” she said. “I really enjoyed that.”

According to Noel Sullivan, Pine Tree Society’s President and CEO, the partnership with Portland Stage aligns with the organization’s vision of providing opportunities for Maine people with disabilities to connect with the community.

“Pine Tree Society works every day throughout Maine to help people with disabilities live fuller, richer, more socially connected lives,” said Noel. “Our work to bring performing arts to those who otherwise would not have the opportunity is another example of this commitment.”

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