Morristown High adding sign language interpreter to ‘Miracle Worker,’ Nov. 24

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By Sam Lewis

This month’s final performance of The Miracle Worker at Morristown High School will feature an added star: Sign language interpreter Nicole Safford.

Safford will sign on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at the 2 o’clock matinee of the drama, which follows the relationship between Helen Keller, who was deaf, dumb and blind; and her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

The interpreter, a language services coordinator at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, got her start in 1996, at an American Sign Language (ASL) class that she took to satisfy her college foreign language requirement.

“I figured wow, five credits, I have seen the interpreters on the corner of the screen, how hard could it be?” Safford said.

From day one, she knew this was her calling.

“The language, the culture, the history, I was just mesmerized. I went home and I told my parents that I wanted to be an interpreter,” she recounted.

Safford went on to take ASL 1-4, followed by a year-long interpreting program. She began interpreting in a Brooklyn High School, and continued her work in New Jersey, interpreting in educational buildings, psychiatric hospitals, and other freelance gigs.

Morristown High cast and crew of ‘The Miracle Worker’ with visitors from the Seeing Eye. Photo by Katelyn Nagy.

She also taught an ASL class in the same program from which she graduated.

At the Richmond University Medical Center, Safford coordinates appointments to ensure rights are upheld for every Limited English Proficient patient and caregiver, and that each gets appropriate language services.

Safford interprets ASL via phone and video relay, in addition to in-person.

From an early age, she said, she displayed a passion for different languages and cultures.

“My parents always knew that I would do something with it,” Safford said.

Interpreting became more than a career. Safford fell in love and married a deaf man. They have two kids, and Safford has taught them both sign language, so they can communicate with their dad, and the deaf community.

MHS Theatre sent Miracle Worker invitations to schools for the hearing impaired.

“The School for the Deaf at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights has already contacted us that they have individuals who will be attending,” said Vicky Bashant, president of the MHS Theatre Parents Association.

Sam Lewis is a sophomore at Morristown High School.

Morristown High School presents The Miracle Worker, on Nov. 22 at 7pm; Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2pm (special pre-show event with The Seeing Eye at 12:30) and 7 pm, and Sunday, Nov. 24 at 2pm (ASL Interpreters). Tickets: $8-$15. At 50 Early St.

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