Sound Theatre and Book-It Repertory Theatre Launch Joint Spanish-Captioning Initiative

The captioning initiative aligns with both company missions.

By: Sep. 19, 2022

The second most-commonly spoken language in the U.S. hits Seattle mainstages. Two theatres have joined forces to set a regional precedent: in addition to diverse casting and Latine narratives, Sound Theatre and Book-It Repertory Theatre will offer a combined six Spanish-captioned performances.

While English captions are occasionally offered for English-speaking audiences for foreign language dialogue (such as opera), this joint initiative centers Spanish-speaking audiences - who rarely are able to see live shows captioned in their preferred language.

Sound Theatre's Sept. 24 - Oct. 15 run of CLOUD TECTONICS (in partnership with Earthseed) will offer Spanish-captioned shows on Sept. 25 (2PM), Oct. 1 (2PM), Oct. 6 (7:30PM), and Oct. 15 (7:30PM). Book-It Repertory's Sept. 21 - Oct. 16 run of IN THE TIME OF BUTTERFLIES offers Spanish-captioned performances on Oct. 1 (7:30PM) and Oct. 15 (2PM).

In Washington State, the most common birthplace for the foreign-born Washington residents was Mexico, according to the 2020 Census Bureau ACS PUMS data. One is Grecia Leal Pardo, who immigrated from Morelia, Michoacán (land of the Purépecha) and is translating CLOUD TECTONICS (Tectónica de nubes) into Spanish:

"Translating a script is exciting, because you get to think about the interplay between intention, meaning, and interpretation and how it lives not just on the page but in a moment," said Pardo. "The first time I went into rehearsal, I had a working translation but as soon as I saw the actors work and once I heard the first director note from Jéhan Òsanyìn, my understanding of the play shifted. I had to go back and shift some of my choices, too, based on dynamics I'd learned from the room."

The captioning initiative aligns with both company missions. Book-It has premiered over 100 adaptations, to "transform great literature into great theatre," and to inspire audiences to read.

"We are extremely pleased to be able to offer this service to our Spanish-speaking patrons. To produce such an important story with fewer language barriers for those in the community is a dream come true. We could not be more excited about the pathways it opens up for both our audiences, and Book-It," said Gus Menary, Book-It Repertory Theatre artistic director.

IN THE TIME OF BUTTERFLIES (En el tiempo de las mariposas) is playwright Caridad Svich's adaptation of a novel by Julia Alvarez, on the Mirabal sisters during President Trujillo's authoritarian reign in the Dominican Republic. Ana María Campoy will direct.

Maria Manness, project manager for the captioning project, learned captioning techniques in 2007 as an intern running English supertitles for Milagro Theatre's bilingual plays. Since then, she introduced an English-captioning experiment at Washington Ensemble Theatre (WET), where she is currently a managing director: "The process is surprisingly simple," said Manness. "I hope this collaboration between Book-It and Sound inspires other organizations to make translated and captioned performances a more regular offering in Seattle."

It's a natural next step to Sound Theatre's mission to amplify the dignity and diversity of the human experience. Taking lesser-traveled roads of accessible theatre (like ASL/Open-Captioned and Sensory-Friendly shows) means "considering language access as more and more part of accessibility goals, not just multiculturalism," said Sound Theatre artistic director Teresa Thuman.


From 3:30 - 7:30PM following Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 Spanish-captioned CLOUD TECTONICS matinees, Sound Theatre and Earthseed will host Grief Market: Still Here, a pop-up art market featuring wares of mostly women-, queer-, and BIPOC-owned vendors. Pre-pandemic, Earthseed's handmade artwork helped fund scholarships to workshops such as Anti-Blackness for Black People, Somatics for Systems Change, and Practices for Healing and Resilience in Racial Justice Work. Grief Market is a partial path back to this practice. It is modeled after El Mercado, a San Diego-based market that embraces Latine cultures and diversity. Vendor items include pottery, jewelry, and art prints.


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