As I type this, I am on a plane, and beginning an astonishing adventure.
How This Started
In 1980, theatre introduced me to sign language. I was in a production of Runaways, by Elizabeth Swadows, and I played a Deaf character (see photo, above). I had never met a Deaf person, and knew nothing about sign language. I did my best to translate the English lines into “sign language”, but I didn’t know anything about American Sign Language. Even so, I did an alright job (according to a teacher of Deaf children), and I made the decision to seek out a college degree in sign language. Sure enough, I landed at Madonna University in 1982, and graduated with a BA in Sign Language Studies. That same year, I become nationally certified and interpreted my first play.
The first interpreted play was with Wild Swan Theatre, in the shadowed style (where interpreters move amongst the cast, on stage). While I have done a bunch of other types of interpreting, theatre interpreting has remained a unique passion. I’ve interpreted on stage every year of my life since 1986 – for more than half of my life. My work has resulted in the formation of TerpTheatre, where I’ve had the good fortune to work with many of the Michigan’s best theatres and to help train some of best known theatre interpreters in Michigan.
Researching Interpreted Theatre
Now, as PhD student in the Department of Interpretation at Gallaudet University, I am fortunate that my life is coming “full circle”—I am able to research interpreting for the stage. This results of this research will become my dissertation at Gallaudet University.
I am now the chair person of the Sign Language Studies program from which I graduated in 1986. It is an understatement to say that I have had a very fortunate career, and that I am extremely lucky to be researching theatre interpreting.
The Down-Under Adventure
While in Australia and New Zealand, I will conduct numerous interviews with interpreters, Deaf people, hearing people, and theatre personnel. Theatre interpreters, Deaf people, and theatre personnel in Melbourne have already been extremely gracious in helping me to arrange this research. My plans include teaching a workshop in Melbourne, and also a trip to New Zealand. There, I’ll attend a conference for interpreters, while also interviewing theatre interpreters from New Zealand.
Along the way, I’ll be learning to utilize as much Aussy sign language as possible – especially their use of two-handed fingerspelling.
I hope to keep everyone informed through occasional vBlogs and posts like this. Follow TerpTheatre to get the updates.
This adventure would not be possible if it weren’t for the support of so many others. I am thankful to my home institution, Madonna University. I have learned so much from the professors and my fellow students in the Department of Interpretation at Gallaudet University. I’m deeply indebted to my teachers while I was a student at Madonna University in the 1980’s, and to the Deaf community. I have learned a great deal from the many other interpreters with whom I have worked, and I am grateful for the willingness of interpreters who are sharing their story through my research. My work has been honed in theatres like Wild Swan Theater, Oakland University, Stagecrafters Baldwin Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Wayne State University, the Fisher, the Fox, and the Opera House (in Detroit). None of this would be possible without the belief of my husband, Jim Routhier, that I can do this. I am so very thankful for him.
Danny McDougall, PhD, CSC — “Dr. Danny” — owns and manages TerpTheatre. Since 1986, he has interpreted in hundreds of plays, musicals and other performances on stage – most in the shadowed style. He teaches and lectures on the theory and practice of theatre interpreting. Danny is the chair of Sign Language Studies at Madonna University, and holds a PhD in Translation and Interpretation from Heriot-Watt University – where his dissertation explored the relationship between space and meaning during interpreted theatre performances.