GORHAM — The University of Southern Maine Department of Theatre will close the season with something old and something new. USM’s production of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is the first show in Maine to use a full cast of American Sign Language  signers to shadow every character,” said director Assunta Kent.

The show will run from April Friday, April 17 through Sunday, April 26, at Russell Hall on the Gorham campus. Tickets are $15 for the general public.

ASL shadow-signed productions offer deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members the experience of theater without having to watch a sole interpreter on the side of the stage. The roles of the ASL shadow interpreters are equal to those of the actors, and they are integrated seamlessly into the story.

USM theatre student Zac Stearn, who plays the speaking role of Orlando, learned sign language at an early age because his mother is deaf. For Stearn, the production exemplifies the accessibility of the arts at USM.

“This is Shakespeare. It can be hard to understand, and one of the beauties of ASL is that you can see the words come to life,” Stearn said.

USM liberal studies major Darleen Hutchins, who shadows the lead role of Rosalind, was born deaf and is fluent is ASL.

“ASL is a very straightforward and literal language,” Hutchins said. “I’m sure all deaf and hearing people will be looking to the shadows for clues.”

In “As You Like It,” four young courtiers run from fatal politics — into the entanglements of love. The story follows female cousins Celia and Rosaland (who is fleeing the persecution of her uncle and is daringly disguised as a wise-cracking boy) into the Forest of Arden, where they discover the pleasures and pains of pastoral love.

Tickets are $15 general public; $11 seniors, USM employees & alumni; $8 students.

For information about performance dates and times and to purchase tickets  call 207- 780-5151 or go to http://usm.maine.edu/theatre.

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