Deaf West’s Spring Awakening – Deaf Representation

   

 

Deaf West’s Spring Awakening on Broadway 

This fall, a ground breaking new production opened on Broadway and has changed the lives of all audience members, cast and crew involved. Deaf West Theatre, based out of LA, has brought their staging of the musical Spring Awakening to Broadway, and it is not one to miss. The cast and crew consists of hearing and deaf actors, technical designers, and the creative team members. The show is presented completely through American Sign Language and spoken English. The sign language is worked into the choreography and has been carefully crafted into the songs for accurate interpretation.

This staging is a powerful and new interpretation of the already very important messages the show brings. Spring Awakening first opened in 2006 and changed Broadway forever. Now with this inclusive new revival, the show’s meaning is more prevalent than ever.

“The show is about the dangers of not communicating and what can happen when you don’t have empathy and step inside the experiences of another person and understand where they’re coming from.” States hearing actor, Krysta Rodriguez, who plays Ilse. Krysta was a part of the original Broadway production of  Spring Awakening in 2006 as well.

The show follows 11 young teenagers in 19th century Germany and the trials of  growing up and coming of age in a conservative society where talking about something like pregnancy is seen as repulsive. The miscommunication between child and adult have grave consequences for the three main characters, but also affects the rest of the children. Not being able to communicate and just wanting to be heard are things that deaf people have experienced and deal with quite daily. The show is truly just about children who just want to be heard, much like the members of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Most characters have a hearing actor to sing and say the lines, and a deaf actor to sign while they both act together. Some characters are played by just one hearing actor, who signs as well. This new idea brings a new layer to seeing the thought processes of each character while dealing with their story lines.

This progressive new staging brings the hearing and deaf communities together, and breaks the isolation between the two. Having deaf actors is so important to the representation of this community. Over 20 Broadway debuts have happened through this show, many of whom wouldn’t have the opportunity without this show, Deaf West Theatre, and the direction of Michael Arden.  Ali Stroker is also the first actress on Broadway in a wheelchair, ever.

The inclusiveness of this production brings unity to all hearing, deaf, hard of hearing, and disabled actors and audience members.

How To Make A Musical For The Deaf

Buzzfeed Video: https://youtu.be/jcRREvQyl54

Spring Awakening at Deaf West Theatre

Original LA Production: https://youtu.be/5zSggUTZZGU

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