SkirtsAfire Festival presents “The Blue Hour” with ASL Interpretation

The Cause

SkirtsAfire Festival is Edmonton's only 10 day theatre and multidisciplinary arts festival featuring women. Heading into our 8th annual festival in February 2020, we are excited to be a continued platform for women's stories to be shared and heard, presenting theatre, dance, spoken word, music, workshops, and more at various locations around Alberta Avenue, Downtown, and new for 2020 - Old Strathcona.

Each year, we present a MainStage play during SkirtsAfire and we want to offer accessibility to deaf audiences through ASL interpretation for 5 performances. As a festival that strives for continued accessibility through 'by donation' events, 'pay what you please' theatre performances, and more, ASL interpretation is a growing need for our festival to reach out to a community that may not experience this show otherwise. We have had one event in the festival for the past 2 years that included ASL interpretation and we were very pleased with the accessibility we provided, as well as what it added to the event itself. We feel that the interpreters are a part of the performance as much as the actor/poet/artist is and the part they play is intertwined with the story being told.

For 2020, we are proud to be presenting "The Blue Hour" by local playwright, Michele Vance Hehir, playing in the Westbury Theatre as we partner with Fringe Theatre Adventures. The play won the Alberta Playwriting competition in 2017 and was one of the chosen plays in SkirtsAfire’s play development series "Peep Show" in 2018. This will mark the first time a play has gone through our submission process and play development program to then go on to a full production as part of our MainStage Series, a goal for SkirtsAfire since its inception in 2013. "The Blue Hour" is a very human story revolving around relationships in family and community. Taking place in a fictional small town in southern Alberta in 1947 and 1949, the story follows a pastor, his relationship with a 15-year-old-girl, and the devastating consequences it has on the town, the girl and her younger brother. Vance Hehir has written a timely, heart wrenching, hopeful, and funny play about the humans behind the monstrous acts we hear about too often. We feel this is an important story to be told and want to make it accessible to all.

Who Will it Benefit?

As many arts organizations are realizing, accessibility is everything. Theatre brings with it a magic of bringing people together to be touched by something live, happening right before their eyes. It is one of the few acts we can engage in that pauses the outside world and forces us to pay attention to what is happening in front of us, constantly deciphering what we are seeing, and feeling emotions about it in real time. No one should be left out of experiencing live theatre, and a community we'd like to reach out to specifically is the deaf community.

According to the Canadian Association of the Deaf, 1 percent of the population is culturally and linguistically deaf. Without ASL interpretation, many deaf patrons would not be able to fully experience "The Blue Hour," or any theatre performance that relies greatly on script, to the fullest. This would be a great disservice to the deaf community. By offering 5 performances of "The Blue Hour" with ASL interpretation, we hope to reach people who may not have felt they were welcome or included in theatre performances before.

Another beneficiary of this idea would be the ASL interpreters and the organization they work with. For this idea, we have contacted NICA Consolidated, an organization that offers professional sign language interpreting services, and who we have worked with in the past. We hope that by hiring them, more people in the theatre community will hire them for future projects.