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ASL students at Shadowbox

Columbus State’s American Sign Language students took center stage at Shadowbox Live in December -- literally.

Students from Columbus State’s Interpreter Education Program provided sign language interpretation at two “Holiday Hoopla” shows, Dec. 9 and 15. Students worked hard to keep up with Shadowbox Live’s high-energy show, which combines musical numbers and sketch comedy. Sign language students portrayed multiple characters, hit their cues along with the actors, and rocked out with the band.

Students got the sketches three weeks ahead of show time, working mostly with videotapes of performances. Although they had scripts for each sketch, Shadowbox performers are continually changing and refining their acts. And the performers may decide to ad-lib while on stage.

“You have to be ready for anything,” said interpreting student Caitlin Boggs.

Columbus State’s Interpreter Education Program trains students to serve as American Sign Language interpreters in a variety of settings, such as classrooms, courtrooms, and doctor’s offices. This is the first year Columbus State has offered a theatrical interpreting class. It was offered as a “special topics” class, and met once a week for 16 weeks.

The 10 students who took the class made “incredible strides,” said Stacie Boord, community relations and education director at Shadowbox Live.

“There is a ‘bigness’ that is required. It’s not just about getting the interpretation right, it’s about getting invested in the performance,” Boord said. “I’m asking them to be actors as well.”

Instructor Teri Dematteo was blown away by the skills students developed over the class. For example, during musical numbers, some students learned to sing the words in English with their mouths while they did ASL with their hands.

“They’re doing the kind of work that is usually reserved for seasoned interpreters,” Dematteo said.

Interpreting student Kerri Moore did theater in high school, so she relished the opportunity to get back in front of an audience. After taking the class, she’s talking to an interpreting agency so she can do theatrical interpreting full-time.

“Theatrical interpreting allows me to do two things that I love. It’s been an awesome experience,” Moore said. “I’ve loved this and I’d love to pursue it as a career.”

Even if students never step back on a stage, the theatrical interpreting class teaches them important job skills, said Dematteo. A good interpreter has to portray the emotions and character of whoever’s speaking, whether it’s to a packed crowd or an audience of one.

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