PCS Blog

Sign Interpreting “A Small Fire”

Posted by Alice Hodge | 12 March 2014

The Bridges Family: Emily (Peggy J. Scott), Jenny (Hollye Gilbert) and John (Tom Bloom) in A Small Fire.

Our American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter and Coordinator, Dot Hearn, guest blogs about signing A Small Fire, in which one of the principle characters loses her sense one by one, and includes resources available in our community.  


The next interpreted play is A Small Fire on Thursday, March 13th, 7:30 pm. The interpreters are Rich Hall and Cheryl Witters; the sign coach is Irene Jazowick.
In this play, one of the characters (Emily) develops a mysterious disease. She becomes deaf and blind, in addition to losing other senses. This integral part of the story provided one of the challenges for the interpreting team, as there are brief sequences performed in total or near total darkness. The theatrical reason for the darkness is important, and the team had to find a compatible way to work with the dark using a visual language, as well as how to negotiate the information which is presented in the dark.
Another fact of interest to the Deaf Community is that the actress playing Emily is Peggy J. Scott, who performed with Deaf West in the 1970s. The interpreting team met her after one of their rehearsals at the theater and Ms. Scott still remembers some sign language.
When I asked the interpreting team what they felt were the strengths of this play, they said “It’s good.” Cheryl added, “The play is real.  It's vulnerable.  Life, loss, grief, work, marriage and relationships are all messy, complicated, and run deeper than words can contain. The play is very relatable and is perfectly punctuated with humor; a good ingredient for life.”
We are fortunate in the Pacific Northwest to have some of the best resources in the country available right here for people who are experiencing the situation Emily and her family face in the play. If you or someone you know are facing these issues, the following organizations may be of interest:


Dot Hearn has been interpreting theater at Portland Center Stage since 1997. She took on the role of coordinating the interpreting access teams, which included the addition of Deaf sign coaches, in 2005. Dot interprets at other theaters, as well, but some of her favorite shows have been here at PCS, such as I Am My Own Wife, Celebrity Row, and A Christmas Story. Dot is also an author and short story writer and has been involved in theater at many levels throughout her life. Dot holds dual national interpreter certification and participated in the 2001 “Interpreting for the Theater” training at Juilliard in New York City. Dot also started Performing Arts Interpreting Alliance, which provides training opportunities for interpreters, in addition to interpreting coordination services.  



A Small Fire runs through March 23.




Comments (0)

There are no comments for this entry yet.

Join the conversation!

Portland Center Stage welcomes your comments and criticism.

We invite you to share your comments with us on our Facebook page.


For current and upcoming shows, please see our Season Calendar.

Sign up for the PCS email list.

Season Sponsors