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    Lights, action…and Auslan!

    by Sherrie

    In early 2010, I had the opportunity to see Wicked in Sydney. It was the first time in my entire life I had attended a theatre show with Auslan interpreters, and it was beyond incredible!

    I loved EVERYTHING about the musical, and I found myself wishing there were more opportunities to go to theatre shows & musicals with Auslan interpreters. It was like a new world had opened up to me, as the possibilities of theatre shows being interpreted were sacre back then.


    Auslan Stage Left was born in 2012! Susan Emerson and Medina Sumovic are the geniuses behind the not for profit community organisation. It is entirely run by volunteers consisting of Susan, Media, a part-time intern and a large team of Auslan interpreters and Deaf consultants across Australia. It organises Auslan interpreting for theatre shows around the country.

    Source: Dots Mise Studios

    Since the formation of Auslan Stage Left, Deaf patrons have been able to attend productions of The Lion King, Wicked, Grease, Les Miserables, Strictly Ballroom, The Wiggles and many more – big or small for all ages. Theatre shows are now accessible – even more than it was 20 years ago when it was rare as hens teeth to attend an Auslan interpreted theatre show.

    Deaf people are now able to appreciate the art of theatre. There are interpreted theatre shows in the UK and the US. There has been a couple of ASL interpreted Broadway shows in NYC! Imagine that! Australia is finally catching up, so this is fantastic!

    Unfortunately, there are a couple of theatre companies who are reluctant to use Auslan interpreters to provide access to Deaf patrons. One in particular, Gordon Frost Productions has confirmed that they will be providing captioning for most of their shows around Australia, but not Auslan interpreters. What is this…?!

    Captioning access at theatre shows are great, but not for Deaf people whose first language is Auslan. Deaf people are very visual, and we understand concepts, stories and whatnot better when conveyed in Auslan.

    Last October, Les Miserables was in Melbourne and it was very well attended by Deaf patrons. From what I’ve been told, they thoroughly enjoyed it, and they loved having Auslan interpreters there. Les Miserables is a complicated story, and would have been better understood in Auslan rather than relying on captions. Deaf people who had previously read the book or seen the movie have said that they understood the story better through Auslan at the recent theatre show.

    With captioning, you cannot pick up on the vibes, emotions and the whole story from a theatre show. You would not know if a character was being sarcastic. You would not know if they were upset. All emotions, vibes, meanings, concepts, etc are better conveyed in Auslan so Deaf patrons can better understand what is going on.

    I missed out on the opportunity to see Les Miserables last year in Melbourne, so if an Auslan interpreted performance is provided in Sydney, then I would be willing to fly up for it (that depends if I can afford it!). Les Miserables is currently in Perth, and an Auslan interpreted performance is scheduled for Sunday 15th February 2015. Approximately 30 Deaf people are attending – which is a fantastic number for Perth! Melbourne had approximately 80 Deaf attendees. I predict Sydney would get a large number of Deaf people to see Les Miserables if there is an Auslan interpreted performance.

    It is not looking possible for Gordon Frost Productions to agree to an Auslan interpreted performance for Sydney, so if you are definitely interested in seeing Les Miserables with Auslan interpreters, you should post on their Facebook page and tell them that you would LOVE to go when it comes to Sydney.

    Use the power of social media to make the need for an Auslan interpreted performance in Sydney heard!

    YAY for attending more Auslan interpreted theatre performances! 😉

    S x

    DISCLAIMER: This post was written in support of Auslan Stage Left and the future of Auslan interpreted theatre performances.

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