Howie Seago, current William H. and Ruth Crane Schaefer Distinguished Faculty who is teaching in the theater program during the 2016 fall semester, is working with his THE 495 students to translate William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus into American Sign Language (ASL). Their work was showcased on October 15, 2016, as part of the First Folio!month activities.

Seago is modeling the translation process after the “Play On!” initiative, launched by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), a not-for-profit professional theater in Ashland, Oregon. Seago was asked to submit this fall’s translation for the 2019 OSF season by artistic director Bill Rauch.

“If that were to happen, it would involve at least four deaf actors on stage, which is a really big deal,” said Seago.

Two OSF support staff members, Lue Douthit, director, and Taylor Bailey, assistant director of “Play On!”, are assisting this fall, as is Lezlie Cross, dramaturg, and Christine Albright, director and teacher.

Seago’s career began with a role in Ajax, a production of Peter Sellars, a well-known opera, theater, and festival director. He then joined the National Theatre of the Deaf, as well as making several appearances on television shows and films, most notably Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Equalizer.

Seago had a prominent role in Beyond Silence as Martin, a deaf father of a hearing child who struggles with her identity. He also played the role of Grandpa Dale in ASL Film‘s The Legend of the Mountain Man, a film about three kids who visit their grandparents in rural Montana and discover a strange forest creature, learning more about their family history in the process.

Seago, who usually works with hearing actors and actresses, sees working with deaf people on campus and having access to total communication as stepping back into a world of comfort.

“I have already learned quite a bit and gained some perspectives on translating in different ways, and on how to work with younger deaf actors,” said Seago.

Seago hopes to see his students gain a better understanding of how to translate Shakespeare into ASL.

“I hope my students will develop the skills and confidence to perform Shakespeare in a clear, comprehensive, highly visual, and artistic manner, in addition to analyzing how some of the hearing characters might be switched to deaf characters in plausible ways,” said Seago.

Titus Andronicus is a tragedy, taking place in Rome. Saturninus and his brother, Bassianus, insist on succeeding their father as Caesar. However, Marcus Andronicus, Titus’s brother, declares that people are demanding Titus to be the one who makes the final decision after he returns home from war. Chaos break out. In the end, Saturninus is chosen as Caesar, and Titus is killed. The full play and its script can be read here.

First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of, The Lord Browne of Madingley, Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, the British Council, Stuart and Mimi Rose, Albert and Shirley Small, and other generous donors.

Updated November 7, 2016.

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