Volume 190, Spring 2022, pp. 39-45

In November 2020, Theatre Passe Muraille produced a workshop as a part of their Accessibility Labs (funded through the Toronto Arts Council’s Open Door Project). This workshop connected the development of Samson Bonkeabantu Brown’s play 11:11, directed by Tsholo Visions Khalema and choreographed by Mafa Makhubalo, with a collaboration between technology collectives Toasterlab and Cohort to experiment with the use of augmented reality to support the American Sign Language interpretation and live captioning in consultation with Courage Bacchus, Marcia Adolphe, and Carmelle Cachero, Jenelle Rouse, and Gaitrie Persaud. The collaborators spent a week building an interpretation distribution system that used affordable technology to create a proof-of-concept experiment to see what it would look like to move both text and sign interpretation from just offstage into the visual field of the performance.

Using Cohort’s media distribution app developed for the synchronous delivery of media to mobile devices, this project explored live and pre-recorded versions of performance interpretation for a Deaf audience. These were displayed on the audience’s phone screens and in simple augmented reality headsets. The goal was to explore expanding the opportunities for an audience to access interpretation, making the experience more customizable through different forms of engagement, and seeking to provide more universal access across all performances by making a recorded alternative available. The workshop also explored the dramaturgical and scenographic implications of adding this information into the direct visual field of an audience member.

This article, in the form of a compiled oral history of the workshop, documents the process, the findings, and the follow-up questions that the team identified over our short time together to provide a baseline for further exploration into the use of mixed-reality technologies in support of accessible performance spaces. It considers situated identity and Deaf culture in relationship to translating interpreted performance to a technological solution as it both outlines the practical steps that allowed this to happen and explores artist, interpreter, and technologist perspectives on what was learned.