Interview conducted by Donna Ellis and Brian Morrison (HandsUp) on July 10, 2020
Kevin Mundey was born and raised in Philadelphia. Kevin is a Deaf Interpreter for the Philadelphia Chapter of Black Deaf Advocates (PCBDA) and the larger community. A graduate of Temple University, Kevin is an active member and a strong advocate in the Deaf community. Kevin received the Deaf Interpreter Award from PCBDA in 2012.
In his role as a Deaf Interpreter for the past 15 years, he believes in providing equal communication access everywhere. In addition to extensive committee service, Kevin serves on the Committee of the Mayor's Commission on People with Disabilities and is the Commission's liaison officer.
Currently, he is a real estate entrepreneur and a communications specialist in various educational settings.
Donna Ellis, MFA, CI, CT, SC:L was introduced to the world of interpreting during her 10 years as an Equity actor in New York City. After working and performing with both Deaf and Hearing actors, Donna went on to become a freelance interpreter throughout the New York City area, as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, in a variety of settings. She has been involved in the field of interpreting for over 30 years and specializes in legal interpreting as well as theatrical interpreting.
In addition to freelancing, she is in partnership with Brian Morrison as co-owner of Hands UP Productions. Together they provide accessible, high quality interpreted theatre throughout the Philadelphia region. Her theatrical interpreting experience includes more than a hundred Broadway tours, regional productions and exploratory performance pieces. She has trained interpreters in theatrical interpretation throughout the Philadelphia region.
Donna has been seen interpreting at the Kimmel Center/Academy of Music, Arden Theatre, Merriam Theatre, Walnut Street theatre as well as numerous other venues in the tri-state area. She makes her home in Sicklerville, NJ with her husband and two sons.
Brian Morrison, M.Ed, CI, CT, is currently an assistant professor and program coordinator of the ASL/English Interpreting program at the Community College of Philadelphia. He received his Master's of Education from Northeastern University and has been teaching for 18 years. He earned his bachelor's degree in Education of the Deaf and has been involved in the profession for over 25 years.
He is a past president of CIT having served four years in that position. Prior to his two terms as president, he served four years on the board in positions including Director of Public Relations and Outreach and vice-president. He is currently serving as a commissioner on the Commission for Collegiate Interpreter Education, an accreditation body for interpreter education programs.
In addition to teaching, he specializes in theatrical interpreting and is the co-owner, along with Donna Ellis, of Hands UP Productions, a theatrical interpreting company serving the greater Philadelphia area. He has interpreted over one hundred plays and musicals from Broadway tours to regional productions to readings of new works. He has trained interpreters in theatrical interpreting both nationally and internationally. Currently, Brian lives with his husband and their amazing dog in Philadelphia.
Hi! I'm Donna Ellis from Hands Up Productions and
I'm Brian Morrison from Hands UP Productions too!
We're here with Kevin Mundy. Would you mind introducing yourself?
Sure thing! Yes, I'm Kevin and thank you for asking me to join you today. I really appreciate it. I'm looking forward to sharing a little bit of my life experience with you today.
Well, we are thrilled to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us! I'm going to jump right in with our first question. Of course, you know we are currently dealing with Covid-19. What was your life like prior to Covid-19? What did it look like for you in terms of your daily schedule compared to what it looks like today? Can you share any differences you see now?
Whoo... it's been something else! Things are just completely different! Before, I had a regular routine, busy with work and other things. Sometimes I was too busy, but I love being busy and getting things done. I can't just sit around. I always have to be doing something. And then Covid-19 hit back in March and the world changed. Businesses closed and we all had to stay home. And I was just stir-crazy. I can't sit still. But at the same time, I was looking at social media, at lots of different posts about the impact, and the first thing I remember clearly, so strange, is that it was impacting white people. That they were getting sick. As I did some reading it said that it seemed that people of color, Black people, were not being as affected. But then that changed very quickly as we were becoming greatly impacted! We had to be careful and wash our hands and make sure to scrub everything down. I have OCD, I have to admit, so cleaning was no problem. But we were getting very limited information about COVID and what was happening. I would watch the news and sometimes they had interpreters and sometimes they didn't. I remember one situation in NJ, the interpreter on the screen was so tiny I could barely see her! So, trying to get access to information was very difficult. You had to get what you could get. And, as a Deaf interpreter, I was lucky to get information that I wanted to share with my Black Deaf community on Facebook and other social media. It was a challenge. It was really difficult. Access to information has gotten better and better over time. It's not as good as it needs to be but it's better. We know more about it now than we did at the beginning of March when we were all freaking out.
So, before you were very busy with a regular schedule. Are you still busy with a regular schedule? Is it a different kind of schedule? What does your life look like now on a daily basis?
Once COVID hit, my busy life was put on hold. There was no work because we weren't able to get enough information about what COVID even looked like, what the scientific research was saying. We were sitting back and waiting to hear for about a month. And then we started to understand more and more about COVID, and work started coming in. Of course, we had to work remotely and not in person. We had to work remotely from home on video platforms online. It was very different. Of course, it wasn't the same number of hours. Work was very limited. Over the course of the week I might average 5-8 hours of work. Barely enough. I was worried about unemployment insurance and whether or not I should apply. If that would work for me or not because I'm self-employed and that was different it seems. It was a mess. Luckily, I had a backup source of income with real estate property, so I was ok. I was very lucky. I really feel for others who didn't have the same opportunities. Work has started to pick up a bit, but I still feel for others who are struggling. Safety is a priority of course but you need to live, pay bills, and put food on the table and know how to manage your money differently. It's really been a mess for all of us I know. But the key is being flexible. I used to have a predictable routine going and now I've had to learn to be flexible and think carefully about others. You have to wear a mask. That has been really frustrating for Deaf people because when you wear a mask, we can't see your face or read your lips. But we still have to be flexible. We've had to learn to be flexible.
In 2003, Donna Ellis and Brian Morrison met for the first time in Philadelphia while interpreting the Broadway hit, Chicago at the Merriam Theatre. In 2007, with countless partnered productions under their belts, they embarked on a new adventure, Hands UP Productions. 13 seasons later, they have provided accessible, high quality interpreted theatre for the Deaf community throughout the Philadelphia region. Their combined theatrical interpreting experience includes hundreds of Broadway tours, regional productions and exploratory performance pieces.
This project was made possible with generous support from the Independence Public Media Foundation.
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