Groundbreaking Play Pairs UH Sign Language Students with Actors at Main Street Theater

Oct. 29 Performance Designed to Give Deaf Audience A Better Live Theatre Experience

The University of Houston’s American Sign Language Interpreting (ASLI) Program is partnering with Main Street Theater (MST) for a groundbreaking performance of “Duck for President.” The Oct. 29 performance will include UH seniors in the ASLI program serving as American Sign Language (ASL) “shadow interpreters” for each actor on stage. The performance is part of MST’s Theater for Youth Accommodations Performances, making theatre productions accessible to all children.

“Shadow-interpreted performances are rarely produced across the country,” said University of Houston ASLI Program Coordinator Sharon Hill.  “Our goal is to be able to continue this collaboration so that deaf children have greater access to the arts here in Houston.”

Instead of positioning an ASL interpreter on the side of the stage, this performance will feature shadow interpreters integrated into the stage performance. Every actor will have an interpreter shadowing them on stage. The result is a performance that is visually accessible and appealing to deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members, but it takes additional preparation and a more detailed level or coordination between actors and their shadow-interpreters. 

“This type of integration into the performance requires extensive rehearsal with the actors to memorize the stage movement on top of the additional work needed to complete a linguistic analysis of the script,” said Hill, who has 20 years of experience in the field of sign language interpreting and holds Master level certification, the highest level of certification in the field offered by the State of Texas.

The UH ASLI program is the only program in Texas to offer a Bachelor of Arts for sign language interpreting.  Classes are taught by deaf professors so students experience a cultural and linguistic immersion in the classroom setting. In addition to the performing arts, sign language interpreters work in a vast array of settings such as courtrooms, hospitals and television programs.

The special performance of “Duck for President” is October 29 at 11 a.m. at the Main Street Theatre (3400 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002).  Ticket buyers can use the code ASLDUCK for this performance and receive discounted tickets.  Tickets are on sale via phone at 713.524.6706 or online at

“Duck for President” is based on the children’s book by award-winning author Doreen Cronin. It centers on Duck, who is unhappy with the working conditions on Farmer Brown’s farm.  In the comedy, Duck campaigns to be elected to the highest office in the land. MST also produced an audio descriptive performance of the play earlier this month for patrons who are blind or have low vision. A sensory-friendly performance will be offered Oct. 22.

MSL and the UH ASLI program are also planning to work together on a second ASL interpretation performance in the spring for a performance of “Ramona Quimby,” based on Beverly Cleary’s beloved book series.