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November 5, 2009 7:12 PM   Subscribe

The ASL Shakespeare Project brings us Twelfth Night, fully translated into American Sign Language (ASL)

"American Sign Language (ASL) has often been called "kinetic sculpture," fusing movement and gesture to articulate language in space. With artists and scholars increasingly turning their attention to the representation and translation of gestures, this project joins two distinctly different cultures: the hearing world, with Shakespeare as one of its greatest poets, and the visual/gestural language of the Deaf."

Peter Novak, project director for the ASL translation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, has devoted over a decade to this endeavor. Be sure to fully explore the main link to the ASL Shakespeare Project, where you can learn about some of the challenges* involved in an ASL translation, including homonyms, staging, songs and vernacular. Also, the Resources section contains a multitude of links, even lesson plans for students of ASL or Shakespeare, or both!

Also, more from the Yale project page: Verse and Classifiers.

*Click on Project, then Challenges (on the left sidebar)
posted by iamkimiam (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just saw an awesome soviet film adaptation of Twelfth Night yesterday (made in 50s). Too bad it's probably not available in english..
posted by rainy at 7:15 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't know of word of ASL, but watching the actors perform is fantastic. I turned down the sound so the voice over folk weren't so distracting.

Thanks for this.
posted by palindromic at 7:33 PM on November 5, 2009


I just can't help but read "ASL" and imagine Shakespeare being translated into AOL-speak.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 7:33 PM on November 5, 2009


I'm holding out for semaphore. It certainly worked for Wuthering Heights.

But seriously ... the notion of Shakespeare finding an effective signing representation is fascinating and, as a I think about it, inevitable. The man's words do find a way to speak for us all.
posted by philip-random at 7:55 PM on November 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I saw a play in Stuttgart once where the lead character spoke/danced/whatever in ASL and various voices said what he was signing. He was Achilles or Agamemnon or something. It's been a long time ago and obviously most of the detail has entropied down into mush, but the fact of it left a lasting impression. How he could emote! He signed at times with huge sweeping motions.

Made me want to learn sign, but of course there's just so much that can fit into a lifetime.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:06 PM on November 5, 2009


OK, the Wuthering Heights link had me in stitches. I'd never even heard of that one.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:10 PM on November 5, 2009


I've interpreted Shakespeare from spoken English to sign and back again a few times. That word that means the opposite of easy? That.
posted by eccnineten at 8:29 PM on November 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm confused: is the project ongoing? The website says the project began in 1999, and that the translation took about a year, with a performance in 2000, but I couldn't find any reference to dates later than that.

Regardless, it's fantastic.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:59 PM on November 5, 2009


Shakespeare has no business knowing anybody's age, sex, or location.
posted by mattholomew at 5:13 AM on November 6, 2009


Shakespeare has no business knowing anybody's age, sex, or location.

Prithee, teats or begone from hence, never to return.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:15 AM on November 6, 2009


The best is the sign for Shakespeare - take an "s" (basically a closed fist) over your shoulder slightly, then throw it down in front of you (to somewhere between your sternum and your shoulder), splaying your fingers in a sort of BAM! motion. Awesome. It's like it's saying, "Shakespeare, bitches!"

But really, this project - what an accomplishment! I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to translate something like Shakespeare into ASL with all of the wordplay and whatnot. So impressive. Their website is also incredible in its ease of navigation for the deaf... I feel like technology is finally able to support the kind of interface required.
posted by smallmighty at 7:40 AM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


my Aussie friend described bogans to me as "rednecks with a dental plan."
posted by archibald barisol at 8:49 AM on November 6, 2009


archibald barisol: "12my Aussie friend described bogans to me as "rednecks with a dental plan.""

what
posted by iamkimiam at 9:24 AM on November 6, 2009


Their website is also incredible in its ease of navigation for the deaf... I feel like technology is finally able to support the kind of interface required.

Do you feel that most website navigation presents interface difficulties for the deaf?
posted by Jairus at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2009


I saw a play in Stuttgart once where the lead character spoke/danced/whatever in ASL and various voices said what he was signing. He was Achilles or Agamemnon or something. It's been a long time ago and obviously most of the detail has entropied down into mush, but the fact of it left a lasting impression. How he could emote! He signed at times with huge sweeping motions.

I'm betting you saw Ajax, a play by Sophocles. I saw it when it played at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in an adaptation directed by Peter Sellars. That must have been around 1986 or 1987? I recall having mixed feelings about the production as a whole but I did think the central, signed, peformance was very powerful. (I will admit that I just did some Googling to find out what play it was.)
posted by Man-Thing at 9:40 AM on November 6, 2009


Do you feel that most website navigation presents interface difficulties for the deaf?

I guess I was referring more to the fact that all of the website's content (even the menu items on the first page) is translated into ASL, rather than requiring that the visitors to the website be able to read English. I'm not saying that if you're deaf, you can't read - English or any other language - it's just nice to see all the content translated. By "ease of navigation" thanks to improved technology, I meant the embedded videos that are quick to load and what they allow for speakers of ASL. That's not super-new, but I hadn't seen it used for this purpose before.
posted by smallmighty at 12:12 PM on November 6, 2009


my Aussie friend described bogans to me as "rednecks with a dental plan."

I'm sorry, but this is abuse. You want room 12A, Just along the corridor.
posted by scalefree at 9:36 AM on November 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


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