Kitchener-Waterloo

Helen Keller play in St. Jacobs to have sign language interpreters for performance

The May 11 performance of The Miracle Worker at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse will feature American sign language interpreters. It's a first for Drayton Entertainment.

'We want everyone to feel welcome,' associate artistic director says

Shannon Currie, left, and Clara Kushnir star in The Miracle Worker, which runs until May 12 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. (Liisa Steinwedel/Drayton Entertainment)

An upcoming performance of The Miracle Worker at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse will have American Sign Language interpreters to make it more accessible.

The play tells the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. Keller was an American author and political activist who was also the first deafblind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree in 1904.

A production telling Keller's story offered a good opportunity to try out adding interpreters, says Drayton Entertainment's associate artistic director David Connelly.

He said including sign language interpreters in a play is different than if someone is interpreting a speech. With a speech, the person signs what is being said after it's said. But in a play, the interpreting has to take place at the same time as the action.

"What that means is that the preparation for those interpreters is much greater," he said. "Our interpreters are in rehearsal with the actors so that they're able to interpret it simultaneous to the characters who are delivering the words."

It can be exhausting work, Connelly noted, so there are two interpreters who will take turns during the play.

This is the first time Drayton Entertainment has done a signed performance, and Connelly says he hopes they'll do it again for future productions.

"We're really excited about expanding our accessibility to our audience members because we want all audience members — we want everyone to feel welcome into our theatres," he said. "The more we can do to widen that net, the better."

For the performance with interpreters on May 11, there is special seating for people who need to see the interpreters along with the action on the stage.

Those who want to reserve those specific seats can do so by calling the box at 519-747-7788 as they're not available online.

The Miracle Worker runs until May 12.

It stars 12-year old Clara Kushnir as Helen Keller and Shannon Currie as Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan.

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