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Theatre Kalamazoo hopes to present more plays with ASL shadow casts

'Clue' cast members stand in two groups on stage. Two ASL interpreters kneel in front of the voice actors as they interpret the play.
Emily Duguay
WMU Theater
Interpreters Valoree Boyer and James Cech interpret WMU's 'Clue' in ASL during a performance in in November 2024.

Shadow-cast interpretation allows Deaf audience members to understand the dialogue while watching the play.

Western Michigan University’s theater department says it hopes to improve accessibility for the deaf community of Kalamazoo.

For its November showing of “Clue,” WMU Theatre used an American Sign Language shadow cast as part of a partnership with other theaters in the area. The ASL interpreters were on the stage and incorporated into the play.

This approach avoids splitting deaf audience members’ attention between the play and off-stage interpretation.

Valoree Boyer was one of the interpreters for the November showing of “Clue.” She said it was her first shadow cast performance in 14 years. Boyer added that interpreting “Clue” was like reuniting with an old friend.

“I love to see that magic happen because then you notice that the audience as a whole is more engaged in the process,” Boyer said.

WMU Theatre is part of a larger group of theaters in the area called Theatre Kalamazoo.

WMU Director of Arts Administration Emily Duguay said Theatre Kalamazoo hopes to bring more shadow interpretations to the community and to increase accessibility for Blind audience members by introducing audio description.

Duguay said the department is working on plans, but does not have any dates to announce yet.