Foundations of theatre interpreting

By Alana Wiekart

Auslan Stage Left in partnership with Macquarie University presented the Foundations of Theatre Interpreting Workshop, which was held in Melbourne on the first weekend of April, and was nothing short of incredible.

I was one of 40 Auslan Interpreters and Auslan Consultants from all over Australia who were extremely fortunate to have the very animated Alex Jones and the delightful Della Goswell as trainers. Alex is a Deaf Actor, Theatre Interpreter, Consultant and Presenter in both New York and Sydney.

Della is the Convenor of the Auslan-English Interpreting program at Macquarie University in Sydney as well as a Theatre Interpreter and Educator. Both of them generously shared their wealth of knowledge, expertise and advice with us.

One quote that particularly resonated with me was that, “theatre interpreting is not deaf cultural theatre – it is a ‘window’ into hearing culture". Deaf Theatre and Interpreted Theatre are two separate art forms. Interpreted Theatre is not direct communication but rather a hybrid translation of both Deaf and Hearing theatre.

After discussing the translation process we were split in to groups and I was fortunate to work with the very experienced Paul Heuston and Trudy Fraser. We were assigned to translate and then perform the final scene from A Streetcar Named Desire.

At certain times throughout the weekend the Auslan Consultants received specific training about their role, how to give feedback to interpreters, amongst other things. All of the interpreters greatly appreciated the Deaf perspective and their honest but sensitive manner of offering feedback.

Interpreters were also trained to receive this appropriately without responding emotionally. Part of the learning process involved watching our scene, preparing a sight translation of the English script to Auslan, doing research, filming ourselves interpreting, presenting the Auslan interpretation to the consultant for review and feedback.

On Sunday we implemented the feedback we received from our Auslan consultants and then presented our rehearsed scenes in front of the group. Our scenes were either taken from Shakespeare's Hamlet or from A Streetcar Named Desire.

Receiving feedback not only from our consultants, other interpreters and our trainers but also from watching back the footage of our performance provided us with a unique insight that we could never have seen on our own.

Auslan Stage Left intend to run this workshop on an annual basis so I definitely recommend applying if you can. It was such a fun and informative way of improving our interpreting skills that can be applied both in and out of the theatre.

Alana gained her NAATI Paraprofessional accreditation as an Auslan Interpreter in 2006 and is passionate about delivering the best service possible for her clients. She regularly attends professional development and is currently working towards attaining her NAATI Professional level accreditation. This article originally appeared in the ASLIA national e-update and is reproduced with permission.

Published: 22/06/2016