A Beautiful Visual Language: An interview with American Sign Language Consultant & Instructor Jacqui Burnham

ATP: We are excited to be working with you as the American Sign Language Consultant and Instructor for our production of Nick Payne’s Constellations, Jacqui. We’d love to hear more about you.

Jacqui Burnham:  I have a diverse background with various experiences, ranging from doing Artistic Director work with Sign Theatre, to teaching American Sign Language, and Deaf Interpreter work to currently running a program for Deaf Plus/Deafblind individuals, specializing in Deafblind Intervenors. I want to share my background as a hearing person, who suddenly lost their hearing at age 6 ½ after a bout of meningitis which resulted in my becoming Deaf.

ATP: How would you describe that experience?

Jacqui Burnham: During this time, I felt my world was ripped apart, not quite understanding the world surrounding me as a Deaf person, but not quite able to accept the suddenly silent world without sound. This itself was a journey to discovery and acceptance for me as a Deaf person. It is a unique experience to partake and complicated to understand. I would not trade it for anything as it has given me the opportunity to better understand myself as a Deaf person, advocate and educator. It is such an essential part of my life to educate and teach those interested in Deaf Culture and American Sign Language. This language is the most beautifully visually expressed form of communication.

ATP: It is captivating to watch you, our ASL/English Interpreters Stephanie Hoebers and Andrea Sereda and the actors speak that beautiful language on our stage.  What would you like people to know about ASL?

Jacqui Burnham:  As a Deaf person and in my various roles within the community I am often asked about ASL and Deaf culture. The important thing to keep in mind is that ASL itself is a language with no written form, but rather is a visual language used by the Deaf Community all over USA and Canada. ASL is not international, rather each country has their own unique based sign language depending on the country of origin. ASL is a visual-gesture language, having its own semantic and syntactic structure, used by Deaf people. For many Deaf people, ASL and Deaf culture ties the Deaf community together, and allows us to form a community which is unique and important to our daily aspect of life. Deaf culture in any Deaf community is the core part of how Deaf people form ties within our communities and come together and share a common bond and love for our language.

ATP: Thank you for being part of our production, Jacqui.

Jacqui Burnham: I want to thank Alberta Theatre Projects for allowing me to be involved in this project/play, it is inspiring to educate/bring awareness to others on ASL and the Deaf community. If anyone is interested in ASL courses to connect please contact aslcoordinator@calgaryscope.org

Last week in honour of Valentine’s Day, Jacqui taught us about LOVE in ASL!

Get your tickets to Alberta Theatre Projects’ ASL-interpreted performance of CONSTELLATIONS on March 7 HERE! 

About ASL/English Interpreters Stephanie Hoebers and Andrea Sereda

Andrea and Stephanie have over 33 combined years of interpreting experience and have been working in this specialized area of performing arts together since 2004. Though they arrived at their passion for interpreting theatre through very different paths, they each bring a unique but complementary skill set to the process. It is through that mutual passion they have created a partnership to increase accessibility to performing arts in Calgary and together have interpreted a number of performances throughout the city from community theatre to professional theatre stages. They are thrilled to be able to provide access to an unprecedented nine shows for Calgary Deaf audiences this theatre season.