Sign Language Interpreter Ethics

Let’s see, I haven’t gotten disability advocates angry at me in a while. It might be time.

Jonathan Turley posted the video above in a blog post titled “You Decide: Which Is The Greater Draw – The Singer Or The Signer?” The title, and especially the video, reminded me of a live entertainment phenomenon that has annoyed me for decades. I had forgotten about it, because producers learned long ago that I wouldn’t tolerate it in shows I was involved in. The ethics issue: showboating sign language interpreters for deaf audience members.

I have no objection to having signers at special performances of live stage presentations, as long as those signers understand their purpose and obligation. Their purpose is to communicate the words to hearing-impaired audience members. Their obligation is to do so as unobtrusively as possible, so as not to draw focus from the performance itself, or  interfere with the integrity of the production.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of the sign language interpreters who specialize in signing plays and operas don’t see their job this way. They think they are supposed to be as flamboyant–that is, obtrusive–and demonstrative as possible. Well, they’re not going to do that in one of my shows.

I’m not going to work over a grueling six week rehearsal schedule to perfect audience focus, the arc of the show, the lighting, sound, stage picture and all the other artistic elements that need to be coordinated to fully realize a work of live performance art  only to have someone show up who I have never seen before and improvise his or her own act in competition with the performance on stage. If I thought it would enhance “A Steetcar Named Desire” or “The Music Man” to have Marcel Marceau or Red Skelton jumping around and waving their arms next to the performers, I would have staged the shows that way. Continue reading

Custer, Gettysburg, and the Seven Enabling Virtues

Sometimes the Enabling Virtues will save an army, and sometimes they’ll get you killed.

July 3, 1863 was the date of Pickett’s Charge, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee ordered a desperate Napoleonic advance against the Union line at Gettysburg in what has come to be a cautionary tale in human bravery and military hubris. The same day marked the zenith of the career of George Armstrong Custer, the head-strong, dashing cavalry officer who would later achieve both martyrdom and infamy as the unwitting architect of the massacre known as Custer’s Last Stand.

Custer’s heroics on the decisive final day of the Battle of Gettysburg teach their own lessons, historical and ethical. Since the East Calvary Field battle has been thoroughly overshadowed by the tragedy of Pickett’s Charge, it is little known and seldom mentioned. Yet the truth is that the battle, the war, and the United States as we know it may well have been saved that day by none other than undisciplined, reckless George Armstrong Custer. Continue reading

Andy Murray, Tennis Corrupter

That's nice, Andy: rub his nose in it.

Once upon a time, like, oh, a few years ago, tennis was a sport in which the ancient values of mutual respect between adversaries, honesty, fairness, and sportsmanship were paramount.  The periodic talented boors  like Connors, Nastase and McEnroe were aberrations, and their conduct was derided, colorful though it might be.

I am pretty sure that Scottish tennis star Andy Murray has put an end to this, unless the international tennis body or a public uproar puts an end instead to his bringing the tennis equivilent of NFL taunting and NBA showboating onto the court. Murray is a trick shot specialist, and at the London Queens Club tournament leading up to Wimbledon, he created a viral YouTube moment  when he hit a winner against opponent Wilfried Tsonga by swinging his racket under his leg. It was spectacular, flashy and fun. It was also rude, disrespectful and obnoxious.

Guess which the public cares about. Continue reading