First person – me, deaf. Second person – you, hearing. Third person – interpreter.
I rely on her. You rely on her. She relies on both of us. One moment she is you. The next moment she is me. Who is she?
Is she being accurate? Do the movements of her hands convey the nuances of your language, your tone of voice, the pauses between the words? Does she manage to transform the rich expressiveness of sign language into speech?
She is my ear, my voice. If only I could do without her!
She calls and speaks for me in a government office. She interprets for me the instructions and words of encouragement from the midwife during childbirth. She interprets for me the Kaddish prayer my brother is saying for our father.
The psychologist’s questions, she signs to me. Is this therapy session a dyad or a triad? The psychologist speaks to her, explaining “what HE needs to be doing”. “HE” is me. Now, the third person is me.
Atay Citron is an emeritus professor of theatre, and former chair of the Theatre Department at the University of Haifa, where he founded the pioneering academic training program for medical clowns in 2006. His directing career includes the outdoor performance En Zo Ben Zo at the Israel Festival (first prize in the street theatre competition), its sequel, Yanti Parazi at the Jerusalem Khan Theatre, and several devised pieces that were performed in Israel, Canada, the USA, and France. His research interests include shamanism, ritual clowning, medical clowning, and the history of avant-garde performance. He is co-editor of Performance Studies in Motion (Bloomsbury, 2014), and was artistic director of the Bat-Yam International Street Theatre Festival, the Acco Festival of Alternative Theatre, and the School of Visual Theatre, Jerusalem. In 2004, he was awarded the Rosenblum Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts. In 2014, he formed the Ebisu Sign Language Theatre Laboratory as part of the Grammar of the Body research project led by Professor Wendy Sandler at the University of Haifa, and funded by the European Research Council. Today, Ebisu is an independent theatre company that devises performances combining physical theatre with sign language, for deaf and hearing spectators alike.