..."Making the beast with two backs"
The title of this blog is one of my favorite quotes from Othello, a play by William Shakespeare. This past weekend I had the interesting experience of watching this play performed in American Sign Language (ASL). As you may know RIT is also home to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID). It is very common to see interperters around campus as a way for the deaf students here to be involved in classes and activities that are offered. Going to the play was one of the few times that I got put in reverse roles. In this case the performance was done deaf actors or at least hard of hearing, so the main acting was done in ASL. However there were also hearing actors for those of us not fluent in ASL.
It was very cool to watch the deaf actors sign and hear the voices of the actors who were not deaf simultaneously. With the basic knowledge of ASL that I have I was unable to fully understand the deaf actors so it was a good thing that there were actors who were not deaf also. I am also not sure how they were able to translate things from old English to ASL and how well of a job they did doing that. I feel that one of the greatest things about Shakespeare is the use of his words and I think that can be lost during the translation into another language.
The play itself had a very good set and the costumes looked pretty good. The acting in the play was not very good. I was very surprised about this because a lot of ASL is based on facial expressions and body language to communicate. The performance also incorporated a few modern aspects to the old play. Modern music, step and hip-hop were used for some of the scenes of the play. It modernized it and also added some comical aspects to the old tragedy. They may not have been able to act very well but they definitely could dance.
Overall it is something that I was glad I got a chance to see. I am also always looking for new ways to learn and experience parts of the different cultures that are at RIT; one of them being deaf culture.