Stage Hands of the Bay Area: ASL Interpreted Theater home  |  contact us


We wish to express our appreciation to all of our talented Interpreters, ASL Sign Masters and Outreach Coordinators who have worked with us since STAGE HANDS was established in 2001. It was because of your talent, passion for theatre and commitment to access that we were able to provide high quality ASL interpreted theatre to thousands of Deaf patrons at theatres throughout the Bay Area. We are grateful for your beautiful work, and we will forever cherish the relationships we developed with our STAGE HANDS associates over the years. THANK YOU and our best to you!

As the founding partners of Stage Hands, Charlotte Toothman and Joe Quinn have over 20 years of theater interpreting experience. Stage Hands was started in response to the growing popularity of sign language interpreted theater throughout the Bay Area. We are committed to working with talented members of our community to continue a tradition of excellence in interpreted theater.

Stage Hands utilizes a team approach for each interpreted performance. The team draws from a diverse group of experienced Sign Language Interpreters, as well as ASL Sign Masters and Outreach Consultants who are members of the Deaf community.

Bios for founding partners of Stage Hands, Charlotte Toothman and Joe Quinn:

Charlotte Toothman began interpreting in theater settings in the early 1980's at American Conservatory Theater as an understudy for Steven Fritsch-Rudser, one of the first certified theater interpreters in the country. Shortly thereafter, she began working with Joe Quinn and co-founded Stage Hands with him in 2001. What Charlotte enjoys most about theater interpreting is the very challenging and satisfying process of translation including nuance and character development. Working with a talented sign master and team interpreter is the icing on the cake! She agrees that the most thrilling part of the work they do is the response of the audience when their experience of the show is on par with those of hearing audience members.

Joe Quinn founded Stage Hands of the Bay Area with partner Charlotte Toothman in 2001. He has been interpreting in the Bay Area for almost 30 years, and has been involved with theater interpreting since interpreting a first play with the groundbreaking SF production of Crimes Against Nature. In those early years, he was fortunate to work closely with and be inspired by ASL performance interpreter Lynette Taylor, who now teaches at the Juilliard School Interpreting for the Theatre Institute in NYC.

Joe and Charlotte began their partnership working as interpreters with the American Musical Theatre of San Jose and SF's Best of Broadway. For Joe, the most thrilling part of interpreting theater is seeing the reaction of Deaf audience members to the universality of theater, and having the chance to work creatively with so many of the Bay Area's talented and innovative ASL interpreters and Deaf sign masters.


Bios for Stage Hands Interpreters:

Pam Cavazos, CI/CT, SC:L, has been an RID Certified interpreter for over 20 years, proudly serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities of the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the past 15 years she has had the opportunity to interpret dozens of stage productions, among her favorites, Hairspray, The Taming of the Shrew and A Christmas Carol. Pam enjoys the synergy that comes from diligent preparation and curtain-time inspiration.

Serwa Dadzie has been interpreting professionally for 13 years. She began interpreting in the Bay Area and moved to San Diego for college and came back to Northern California after completing her studies. Serwa started theater interpreting about five years ago and joined Stage Hands a year ago. She says, “I absolutely LOVE theater interpreting! I enjoy trying to determine different ways to convey the tone and demeanor of the performers while trying not to take anything away from the performance on the stage. It is also exciting to work with highly qualified sign masters and talented interpreters. We can bounce ideas off of each other to make sure the show is enjoyable and clear for the audience.” Her favorite show to interpret was The Color Purple. “It was a great play and I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people.”

Patty Lessard  has been certified since 1979. The Bay Area has always been her home, and she has worked here since 1979. She has done different types of theater interpreting for the last 20 years. She says, “I appreciate the policy with Stage Hands that an ASL translation coach is a 'given' for any performance.” She enjoys working with challenging translations, "playing" with the language, and rehearsals! One experience that stands out was when she interpreted two plays where the actors spoke Italian and the hearing audience had no English translations. The interpreters were able to meet with native speakers of Italian sign to translate those same lines and provide the Deaf patrons with the same experience. One patron sent her an email afterwards saying how much he LOVED that.

Sherry Hicks has been interpreting for over 25 years and loves theater/concert interpreting. She came to the Bay Area in 1991 after living back east for five years. Thank goodness she’s back in California. She has lived  twice in the following places: New York, Washington and the San Francisco Bay Area, originally hailing from Arkansas. Sherry started concert interpreting with Holly Near in 1981. She states, “I must say that standing next to Maya Angelou was the most memorable and AIDA is a fantastic musical to interpret! This work makes my heart happy.”

Amber Hodson has interpreted in the Bay Area since 1994 after starting her interpreting career in Southern California. While theater interpreting is relatively new to Amber, she really looks forward to interpreting many more plays! She loves the challenge and excitement of preparing for something new. Then comes the big day - adrenaline, fun and smiling faces! Interpreting for Legally Blonde was like, totally her favorite!! Amber says, “I had such a blast, the show was amazing, and Charlotte was an AWESOME mentor. Legally Blonde will always have a special place in my heart as my first show. “  

Robin Mills, CSC. Originally from Southern California, Robin has been in the Bay Area since 1987. She has been interpreting since 1983, and started doing theater interpreting in 2003. What she most enjoys about theater interpreting is translation and working with a sign master to get a good close look at the language and meaning without the pressures of simultaneous interpreting. Robin says, "It is a privilege to get to work so closely with great sign masters who bring a wonderful dimension to the work." She also enjoys having so much time to work on one piece, which affords an opportunity to find the best translation possible. Two of her favorite shows are Mary's Wedding and The Lion King

Anna Mindess, MA, CSC, SC:L has been interpreting for over 25 years (20 of those in Bay Area). Anna discovered sign language when she was an actress in Los Angeles (she has a BA in Theater from UCLA). She decided to go to CSUN to learn ASL to help her expressive abilities on stage and then met Deaf actors in LA area. First play she interpreted was a high point - at the respected Mark Taper Forum in LA - it was A Christmas Carol and the hearing cast included a Deaf actress, Julianna Fjeld. "Since I don't get to do much acting these days, interpreting plays lets me fulfill the inner actress that is still very much a part of me."

Nicole Montagna, CI, CT Originally from New York City, Nicole has been living in the Bay Area for over 10 years. Her love and appreciation of languages was sparked seeing multi-lingual signage on the subways and throughout NYC. The classic book "Handtalk" coupled with Linda Bove on Sesame Street were the first seeds on sign language planted in her mind during childhood. She took her first ASL class the summer after graduating from high school and her journey with the Deaf community has continued to evolve since then. She made her theatrical interpreting debut last fall being on the interpreting team for Avenue Q.  One of her favorite aspects of theater interpreting is working with the sign masters, further developing her understanding and flexibility with sign language. In the future she hopes to work with Deaf interpreters and to perform in an ASL play.

Nicole says, "I am grateful for all the members of the Deaf community who have welcomed me and shared, and continue to share, their language and life experiences. I am grateful for all the interpreters who have mentored me and been supportive colleagues. And I am especially grateful for having a loving and supportive family who has always encouraged me to pursue my goals and happiness."

Michael Velez is a Bay Area native who has been interpreting since 1978. His love for the theater and ASL began as a child observing his Deaf father and other actors from The National Theater of the Deaf rehearse shows in his living room. He has been doing concert and theater interpreting since 1994 and enjoys working with some brilliant sign masters. He loves the challenge it brings and the joy he is able to share with the audience. One of his favorite shows to interpret is AIDA.

Dan Veltri, CSC, was born and raised in Rochester, NY, and learned sign language and interpreting at NTID in 1977. He has been living in San Francisco since 1981. His first experience with theater interpreting came by accident, having to sub for an injured interpreter for Angels in America at ACT in 1994.  The "bug" bit and he's been loving the work ever since. In his own words, what he loves about theater interpreting is "the opportunity to totally absorb and work with texts. So much of our work as interpreters is unrehearsed and on the fly. The opportunity to spend time coming up with a quality translation and getting feedback on it, before doing the actual performance, is a joyous experience. It strengthens your interpreting skills in general." Dan's favorite show so far has been Jersey Boys.

Other Stage Hands Interpreters: Xavier Caylor, Doralynn Folse, Ric Owen and Cathleen Riddley

Bios for Stage Hands Outreach Coordinators:

Jim Brune works full-time with Deaf Counseling Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA). He also enjoys playing tennis, hiking, reading, and spending time with his niece, Olivia. What Jim loves about working with Stage Hands on outreach is seeing Deaf people who have previously had some doubts about interpreted theater come to see a show and really enjoy it! Jim’s favorite shows include Les Miserables, Rent and The Color Purple.  Jim says, “I love seeing plays come alive through ASL! I have seen many shows but those three stand out in my mind because of the lyrics, stage design, costumes, and the fabulous interpreters!”

Michelle Bye currently works as a substitute teacher for Santa Clara County Office of Education Deaf program, Sprint Relay Outreach Specialist and hosts a Starbucks gathering every 3rd Friday of the month in Santa Clara, along with her  volunteer work with other organizations. She is excited about doing outreach work for Stage Hands because along with seeing some great plays, she also gets to meet new people. The Lion King was one of her favorite shows because of all the great visual effects.

Susan Gonzalez photoSusan González, Esq. is a community activist, an educator and now an attorney. A SF/Bay Area native, Susan began her community activism with a variety of grassroots organizations committed to HIV/AIDS education, communication access, equality and animal rights. Today Susan devotes her energies and attention to access and equality, international disability policy making, domestic violence/sexual assault, human and animal rights. An avid theatre patron, Susan often can be found signing and dancing along with the audience, cast and interpreters. Her all time favorite play is Rent, having seen it every time it plays in San Francisco.

Todd Higgins photoTodd Higgins joined Stage Hands in 2006 as one of its outreach consultants. He worked for Deaf Counseling, Advocacy & Referral Agency (DCARA) as its Client Support Specialist for almost four years prior to joining San Francisco State University in 2005 as its current Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Specialist. He is also pursuing a Master's degree in Public Administration at SF State. During his high school years, he was very involved in his high school's magnet arts program - pursuing acrylic painting, ceramics, computer animation, graphic arts, mime, and photography.  

Since then, he has an unquenchable passion for the arts. During his high school and undergraduate years in the Midwest, opportunities to enjoy theater in ASL were few and far between. However, following his relocation to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2002, he was amazed by an unbelievable plethora of ASL-interpreted performances for the local Deaf community to enjoy.  To this day, he enthusiastically supports Stage Hands' quest to bring ASL interpreted theater to the Bay Area Deaf community. Mama Mia, West Side Story and The Lion King are among his favorites.

Vadim Milman photoVadim Milman works as a software engineer at Oracle, manages an art work website and is involved with RLSD doing PR work and website management. He loves meeting people and watching professional theater which makes him a very enthusiastic outreach coordinator for Stage Hands. What excites Vadim the most about interpreted theater is the visual expression and the way emotion is translated. His favorite show is The Color Purple with its very different and usually bold themes.

Liann Osborne works as Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in Fremont and serves as a DCARA board member. Being able to utilize her acting skills when working as a sign master is very exciting for her. She especially enjoys working in outreach as it allows her to reach out to others who may have forgotten how important it is to incorporate art in our lives. She says, “I also try to reach out to the ones who may believe that they do not have enough money to attend performances and I try to help them see that if they truly want to attend a performance they have to think outside of the box. When I was a poor, struggling college student I had an entertainment fund, so I could attend art museum events and performances. I still do that.” Liann’s favorite show was The Color Purple.  According to Liann, “It brought a lot of memories of what my people may have had to endure back then. And it was the first time I had seen so many black Deaf folks in one place. It was the most amazing sight!”

Other Stage Hands Outreach Coordinators: David Weiss, Brian Berlinski, Liann Osborne, Angela Funke

Bios for
Stage Hands Sign Masters:

Jennifer Ann Cook, JAC, has worked as a sign master with Stage Hands for over 6 years. She is also the Director of Large Accounts & Education, Hands On, VRS, as well as a very dynamic entertainer and storyteller. She serves on the Board of Deaf Women United, Inc. and lives in Oakland with her partner and two BIG furries, Buck and Coody. JAC says, “Translating the scripts is my B-12 fixation. It is a true inspiration for me. The process helps me step outside of myself and to take on each character. Given the performer side of me, it keeps me connected to the soul of theater.” 

While all of the shows have been FUN, intense, and challenging, JAC feels that working on Jersey Boys with Joe Quinn and Dan Veltri was a highlight. She felt like dancing as she watched them - she couldn't sit still - the energy of the translation and the performance among those five boys was magnificent!  Additionally, Hairspray and Legally Blonde were a hoot. She says, “Charlotte intimated them so well that I had to laugh at times. The signing thoroughly matched the characters and the mood of the show.”   Two other shows that touched her deeply were Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Lion King.

Other Stage Hands Sign Masters: Butch Zein, Steve McClelland, Brian Berlinski, Megg Rose, Priscilla Moyers and Sandra Ammons

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