Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ASL at the Arizona Renaissance Festival

Over the weekend I had the chance to go to the Arizona Renaissance Festival with some family members. I always try to go once a year because the show is really well put-together, and very professional. It feels more like an amusement park than a bunch of people running around in old clothes, and the shops are really great to browse in.
The joust at the Renaissance Festival (photo by me)

I was surprised this year to have lots of encounters with signing at the shows. The Renaissance Festival is set up so that you can attend whatever shows you like or even just spend the day shopping. I always try to see at least a few shows, mostly the funny ones.

At the first show, which was Ded Bob, there was a person interpreting in ASL for another audience member. Ded Bob, who likes to heckle audience members during his (hilarious) show, picked up on it and started rattling off silly words for the interpreter to sign, which she did, while laughing. It was a pretty funny experience especially since the interpreter didn't even hesitate and continued signing while she was being teased.

At the next show, a music show, the performers ended their routine with two women interpreting "Amazing Grace" while they played the bagpipes and drums. I was disappointed, however, to see that the women didn't actually interpret the song. They just signed the exact wording of the song with ASL signs in English order and zero facial expressions or very much movement at all. I'm sure it looked pretty, but it was way off.

And finally, in the last show I saw, which was pirate-themed, the performers made up a sign for "pirate" ("R" held up to the forehead), explained the difference between signing "R" (arrr!) and "X" (marks the spot), and also demonstrated the sign for "defecation" for the kids in the audience, which was very funny for them.

It was interesting to me to see three shows with elements of signing in them, all in a row. They didn't all get it right but it was still an added entertainment for the day.

1 comment:

  1. Starting in the (European) middle ages a number of monastic orders developed "sign languages". I put that in quotes because they were not fully fleshed languages. But rather technical vocabularies. The Wikipedia entry on Monastic sign languages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monastic_sign_language) has a pretty good bibliography.

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