On the last night of Chicago’s 2012 Lollapalooza music festival, the sun set over a crowd of thousands who had stood for hours waiting to see Jack White, the headliner. A figure strode onto the stage, tipping off a cascade of cheers.
But it was not the alabaster-skinned guitarist; it was Barbie Parker, the festival’s lead sign language interpreter.
The Texas native, along with members of her Austin-based company, LotuSIGN, had interpreted more than twenty bands’ sets for deaf and hard of hearing festival attendees that weekend. As evidenced by the positive reception she received, her interpretations had won over a good portion of the hearing audience as well.
At live music shows, the 45-year-old Parker does not just sign lyrics—she communicates the entire musical experience. She mouths the words. She