June 29, 2013

A signer of the times: Falmouth woman's rap hands go viral

A deft American Sign Language interpreter at concerts and music festivals has many fans of her own.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Holly Maniatty of Falmouth demonstrates her live music signing technique to the lyrics of Wu-Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck.” Here she signs: "So what's up, man?"

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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"Coolin', man."

Additional Photos Below

The answer is typically twofold. All deaf people can feel beats, and some can hear beats as well. And like most people who go to concerts and festivals, deaf people are also choosing to be with friends and share a visual and sensual experience they can't get anywhere else, Maniatty said.

Maniatty sometimes gets concert translating gigs through a Massachusetts company called Everyone's Invited, which specializes in accessibility at music festivals. Locally, she is one of several interpreters that Portland's State Theatre uses for shows when a patron requests one.

Lauren Wayne, general manager of the State Theatre, praised Maniatty for her "professionalism and the fact that she cares about making sure the hearing-impaired enjoy live events just like everyone else."

As she talked for this story, Maniatty usually signed at least part of most of her sentences. Force of habit, she says -- but it's also a testament to how much time and passion she expends on interpreting. (She is also passionate about referring to deaf people in print with a capital "D," as in "Deaf," but newspaper style calls for the word to start with a small "d.")

Although she doesn't make much money, if any, at concerts, interpreting is her profession, and she works hard to remain professional -- even when she gets to share the spotlight with rappers and rockers whose music she loves.

"I can't go up to them and say, 'Oh I love your music so much,' " Maniatty said.

She has, however, had some pretty close contact with stars while interpreting. Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan gave her a hug during his performance at Bonnaroo.

And while interpreting for Bruce Springsteen in New Orleans last year, Maniatty taught The Boss the signs for "Dancing in the Dark," the title of his 1984 hit.

"He was right near me, and I tapped him on the shoulder and showed him (the signs)," said Maniatty. "I heard from people who said, 'Thanks for teaching The Boss to sign.' "

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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Additional Photos

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"Chillin' chillin'"

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Holly Maniatty has made a name for herself as a sign language interpreter for live music concerts. “Everything I do is very strategic, to convey the emotion, the beat,” she said, mugging here with the sign for “camera.”


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