KINGSTON — For the first time at Kingston High School — or any school in the North Kitsap School District for that matter — American Sign Language students teamed up with the drama program to interpret and translate a play with ASL included in the performance.
ASL Teacher Rebecca Neely and Drama Club Adviser Keenan Shionalyn partnered their respective students to translate “Almost Maine.” The show is comprised of several short performances that involves a lot of communication, Shionalyn said.
“I’ve been really impressed with it,” he said of the first couple showings last week. “I think it adds a lot to the play; it reminds people of what it means to communicate when they’re watching not only the acting happen, but right next to it, the people interpreting.”
Neely amd Shionalyn had previously discussed the idea and how it could potentially add to the story. But it came to life when Shionalyn read the script for this particular play.
Shionalyn said the signing enhances the show, and the performers agreed. Senior Sophie Maio, drama club president, has been involved with the program for two years and said it changes the dynamic in a good way.
“I would love to see this continue next year,” Maio said. “It shows more of a sense of community within the school and programs. It helps bring us all together, which is always a good thing.”
Senior Hanna Burgess, stage manager, said the added translators are also educational; both for the actors and spectators.
“We’re not only bringing in people outside of drama to see deeper into the world of theater, but also theater kids seeing into the world of ASL and a little bit of deaf culture,” she said. “It includes deaf people and hard-of-hearing people, and it gives hearing people a quick access into a world they may not know exists.”
Sophomore cast member Sebastian Flores is one of the few students that both performs and signs. He said the additional training can be difficult and it doesn’t always turn out perfectly, but that’s natural when you do something for the first time.
“If we can settle the bumps and have smooth sailing from here, it’d be great,” he said. “We’ve had fun with the performances so far and, right now, it appears to be going rather successfully.”
Kingston’s cast put on a couple of performances last week and Shionalyn said he liked what he saw. Like Flores mentioned, it’s not always perfect. At times, the actors can talk too fast, making it tough for interpreters to keep up, which is part of the reason why he felt a musical might be too much for translators.
He also said that humor can sometimes get lost in translation, but ultimately, he would like to continue the partnership and potentially translate a musical at some point.
“I think it would have to be the right musical, but it would be interesting because people really do love musicals and it’s one thing I’d imagine the deaf community doesn’t get to see a lot of.”
“Almost Maine” is about different loves stories or stories that involve love in some way, Burgess said while trying to avoid any spoilers.
“They’re definitely not sappy or cliché,” she said. “They have something different about them and they’re more real, they hit close to home.”
Senior cast member Gianni Nguyen said the play takes people through a variety of emotions and he wants everyone else to experience an exciting and interesting play. The cast members and translators urged everyone to come see one of the final few showings.
Shows are currently scheduled for 7 p.m. on March 23, and noon and 7 p.m. on March 24.