The touring Broadway company of In the Heights visited the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis this past week and the interpreted performance was yesterday. I was nervous that there would be only three Deaf patrons but imagine my surprise when I saw the ASL section full (with some interpreters scattered around). It's wonderful to see a large turnout from the Deaf community, given the stigma associated with theatre. (My friend and I had a lively discussion about "the arts versus sports" and how one had to choose between one track and the another - never mingling the two, due to schedules and expectations). Another reason of why it may be full is that it's a new show and made its premiere appeareance in the (frigid) Twin Cities.
The two interpreters were amazing as usual - they used some innovative interpreting techniques, especially given the bilingual approach of this show (with both English and Spanish used). From the naked eye, it appears to be Rent meets West Side Story put in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. (In fact, the playwright, Lin Manuel Miranda referenced to Rent being an inspiration that made him write In the Heights).
Due to the Spanish language infusion, the interpreters decided not to translate the Spanish into ASL (as some have done in other productions using Spanish such as West Side Story; or foreign languages (such as "Wilkommen" in Cabaret which uses French, German and English lyrics); but rather, they turned to LSM (Mexican Sign Language, the closest they could get to knowing someone that used the sign language used in the Dominican Republic). This strategy was mainly used during the scene where Nina teaches Benny the Spanish words for 'sunrise' (which leads to a song number of the same theme). I felt this was effective - it gave us a flavor of the bilingualism used without watering it down with ASL .
For me, it was a refreshing experience - as I'm not sure which method I like better. I'm accustomed to memorizing the entire script/libretto; watching the film equivalent (if one is available) or the stage recording; listening to the cast recording on my iPod - the works. (Did it with most of the Broadway tours that came through town - especially Rent, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Mary Poppins.) That way I'm prepared for everything and lets me watch the show more than the interpreters. But at the same time, I don't have the "first-time experience" that others experience by doing little or no research for the show. With this show, I did not have the chance to memorize the script/libretto, which provided some 'surprises' along the way and I could see it the way most of the audience was seeing it without having the script playing in ones head during the show.
Which do you prefer - seeing the show with a fresh eye, or mentally preparing for it (just in case the interpreters don't work out or don't meet your expectations)?