About Debi Shostak

Interview conducted by Donna Ellis and Brian Morrison (HandsUp) in 2020.

Location: Zoom

Debi Shostak feels blessed to come from a wonderful third generation deaf family whose other family members are still continuing to produce deaf family members. She is a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), graduated from Ursinus College with BS in Biology where she studied virology. She also acquired an Associate Degree in fine art.

Debi has been in the field of interpreting since 1995. She is national, state, and court certified and listed with RID, ODHH, and AOPC. She works in a multitude of settings including theater, medical, mental health, school, FEMA, local and federal government, videos, platform, press conferences, and a wide range of other settings. Her interpreting specialties are in legal setting - trials, hearings, depositions, special victim unit for sexually abused children and more.

In her fun time, she studied acting with the famous National Theatre for the Deaf founder, Bernard Bragg and won a best actress award for Youth Leadership Camp. Debi loves animals and volunteers her time to work with birds, wildlife, and domestic animals. She undertook the gull and arctic tern censuses during her study at Cornell University's lab research island in Maine.

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.

Debi's Story

So, let's get started with our interview! We are interviewing Debi Shostak. Please tell us a little bit about yourself!

Thank you, Donna and Brian, for having me here. You're both from Hands Up Productions is that right?

Donna and Brian  
That's right!

Thank you and thank you so much for having me here today. My name is Debi Shostak. I am deaf. So, what types of things would you like to know about me?

Ok, let's jump right in! My first question is about COVID-19. Can you tell us what your daily life looked like before COVID-19 and what it looks like today? How is your life different today?

Ok, well, I have been Deaf all my life. I've always had basically the same daily routine until COVID-19 and then things changed. I have to say, I don't think it's just me. Everybody's life has been changed by COVID-19. Many more people now have the opportunity to stay home and take a deeper look into who they are and who they want to be. That's been true about myself for sure. I'm home much more now and I have been thinking about what I want in my life. My focus has definitely shifted in a different direction. Things have changed when I compare what my life was like before and after COVID. After COVID-19 has passed there are definitely things I'd like to change.

Can you tell us what your daily scheduled looked like before and after COVID-19?

I don't have regular a schedule in my life. My schedule was always changing day to day because of my work as a CDI, a Certified Deaf Interpreter. My schedule is changing all the time. But I like that kind of dynamic schedule. But now, with COVID-19, I do find myself with a more regular type of schedule. I have regularly scheduled press conferences that I have to get to. And I also have video remote interpreting work that also follows a schedule.

I didn't think I would like this COVID-19 type of regular schedule, but I really do! I go to work and come home each day. It's become a routine. I'm have a regular sleep schedule and I'm eating regularly. I found that I really love staying at home. When I'm in my car heading to the press conference it's a very long drive. That's my reflection time. That's when I just let everything go and I let my thoughts fly. I'm like a dog off his leash! I just let go of everything that's concerning me, all the running around and all the things I'm supposed to do. I let that go during my drive to work and that's been really nice.

HandsUp Productions

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.

About the Project

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This project was made possible with generous support from the Independence Public Media Foundation.

For more information

Contact us at iod@temple.edu.