Diane P. Chambers, an ASL interpreter at HIS Sign, loves what she does. Combining her love for interpreting and theater, Diane interprets theatrical performances in the Washington, D.C., metro area whenever she’s booked for a job. In addition to her many interpreting assignments, she’s founder of Flying Hands, a firm dedicated to interpreting and joining the deaf and hearing communities. She’s also an author, having penned, “Communicating in Sign: Creative Ways to Learn American Sign Language (ASL).”
What drew you to become an interpreter?
My paternal grandparents were born in Greece. My grandmother, Yia- Yia, lived with us when I was a child. She taught me to cook and took me on nature walks and we often communicated in gestures. This is one of the reasons why I became fascinated with sign language as a teenager.
Your passion is to interpret live theater performances. When did you realize that theater was your thing?
I acted in every play in high school, often as the lead, and won the National Thespian Award in my senior year. I also sang alto in the high school choir and lead soprano in my church choir. After earning my BA in English and Mass Communications from Towson University at age 20, I took a six-week non-credit ASL class taught by a deaf instructor. I learned quickly and believe it is due to my bi-lingual childhood. My mind was ” hardwired” to learn and respect languages and cultures. Also, communicating with my hands, eyes, and body language felt quite comfortable.
After one year of working as a medical proofreader, I got a job in communications at the Baltimore Sun and signed often with the many deaf employees there. They encouraged me to become an interpreter.
How did you come up with ‘Flying Hands’?
One deaf colleague asked me to sign, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Pitifully, I signed the lyrics word-for-word. She politely clapped, then she signed, “I am deaf. My parents are deaf. That’s pretty, but sign it in a way I can understand…in ASL!” That was my ” aha” moment; I had to sit down and analyze the lyrics and find the concept.
Meanwhile, I had been freelance interpreting with Centralized Interpreter Referral Service since 1984. In 1986, a CIRS administrator said told me about the the Baltimore Festival of the Arts wanting someone to interpret for Sarah Vaughn, and did they know of anyone who could do that? “I would!” I piped up! A few years later, I asked CIRS if they’d mind if I pursued the musical performer interpreting contract at Baltimore Festival for the Arts. After getting their blessing, I went ahead and got the contract and ” Flying Hands” was born.
Diane P. Chambers will be interpreting “Les Miserables” on July 31, 2013, at Toby’s Dinner Theatre in Columbia, Maryland. Click here to learn more.
Diane’s book, “Communicating in Sign: Creative Ways to Learn American Sign Language (ASL),” is available on Amazon. Click here to learn more.