ASC wins a Doris Duke Building Demand for the Arts grant

12/01/2015

Shakespeare has always been for the people.

In fact, part of our mission is to recover the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre and language; and we’re always seeking new methods to accomplish that mission. That’s why we are thrilled to announce we will be exploring fresh ways to present Shakespeare’s plays in American Sign Language with the help of a Doris Duke Building Demand for the Arts grant.

We'll use this $40,000 grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to work with ASL interpreter, theatre artist, and Shakespeare scholar Dr. Lindsey Snyder to explore ways to build interest in the performance of Shakespeare and his contemporaries among Deaf audiences. Dr. Snyder and ASC will conduct focus groups and interviews, attend seminars, connect with deaf audiences and actors, craft pilot training programs for ASL interpreters, and so much more.

Our attempts to reach this audience began with ASL translation in 2007, when we first collaborated with Dr. Snyder to interpret performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and A Christmas Carol and run workshops for Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind students with the help of ASC actors. We’ve continued to make strides with Shakespeare in the Deaf community, and just last week we hosted an ASL-translated student matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with our highest Deaf patron attendance in ASC history.

We here at the ASC firmly believe that Shakespeare's language, especially when performed by actors with deep understanding of the text, is accessible, understandable, and enjoyable by every English language speaker (if you've been following the OSF discussion, make sure you read ASC Director of Mission Dr. Ralph Cohen's response for more on this). We are committed to conquering "ShakesFear" and helping teachers and students of all ages and backgrounds discover the joys of Shakespeare's words, rather than dilute their experience with modern translations.

The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, which serves as a magnet for the regional Deaf community, is located a mere half mile from the ASC. How can we share the joys of Shakespeare's words with this large group of potential audiences, right here in Staunton, with limited or no access? With the help of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Dr. Snyder, ASC is poised to make great strides in its mission to become Shakespeare’s American Home -- for everyone.

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