What It’s Like to Sign a Song: An Interview With Two of the Stars of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening  

Here’s an article I read about Spring Awakening on Broadway, which includes American Sign Language and spoken English. 

http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/10/12/deaf_west_spring_awakening_daniel_n_durant_and_alex_boniello_who_share_the.html?wpsrc=sh_all_dt_tw_bot
The character Moritz is played by two actors. Alex Boniello, who is hearing, sings and speaks the lines. Daniel Durant, who is deaf, signs all the words. The two actors work together to portray one character. It gives two different sides to the character and his story. This article has an interview with Alex and Daniel explaining their relationship and how they work together. 

Including ASL and deaf actors is what has made this revival so successful. Making such a groundbreaking show accessible to deaf audiences and actors has really changed Broadway. 

Deaf Actors in the Media – Deaf Representation

TEDxIslay – Linda Bove: Why We Need Deaf Actors in Deaf Roles

I watched this TEDx Talk about the importance of having deaf actors in deaf roles. I think it is done very well and brings up very important points. 

Representation in the media is not about putting minorities on a pedestal or exploiting them, it is about giving them an equal opportunity to be represented truthfully to the world. Representation is important for people who are not part of that minority to be educated on the culture of a group, and what people of that minority are like. Representation also abolishes stereotypes. If people see deaf/hard of hearing characters who are played by deaf/hard of hearing actors, they can be educated on the culture and see how deaf people are actually people.

A show like Switched At Birth on ABC Family which includes deaf actors, can educate a lot of people on deaf culture. It has healthy representation that takes away the stigma of what hearing people think the deaf community is like. 

Deaf/Hard of Hearing representation in the media also gives deaf actors the opportunity to do what they love, act. They also get to do it in the mainstream media and be praised for it as hearing actors are. 

Class Project – #ASLAwareness #ASLInOurSchools

For Innovations our project is based on getting the word out, making the students of our school aware of deaf/hard of hearing people and culture. Spreading awareness of something like ASL is interesting, it’s kind of a hard task to plan. I don’t really know how to go about it myself. We just have a few ideas. Here’s a few ideas to start off with simple awareness:

Idea #1: Posters throughout the school

We have the idea of making small posters with simple, basic signs and posting them around the school for students to see and read as they are passing by. Students will see them, and hopefully it’ll spark an interest and awareness for this language and community. If everyone sees the importance of learning basic communications we could create something really cool, I think. 

Idea #2 Snapchat account

Making a public snapchat account, adding students, and posting public ‘stories’ each day of a new sign that students can watch is an easy way to spread awareness of ASL. Basic every day signs, available in a way that teenagers use everyday. 

Add us at redriverasl  

 

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

TEDx Talks

For innovations we were asked to watch TEDx Talks and report what we watched and learned. I found these two:

“Opening our Ears to the Deaf” Pamela Weisman at TEDxCoMo

“Opening our Ears to the Deaf” Pamela Weisman at TEDxCoMo

This is the first TEDx Talk that I’ve ever watched that I didn’t absolutely hate. I’ve just never really cared for them. I really liked this one, though. It is information that is worth learning. It’s important. Hearing people should watch this because she brings up many good points of what hearing people should know. She talks about how the phrase ‘hearing impaired’ is offensive because it implies that they are impaired of something. That they need to be fixed. Hearing is not the default. She explains how hearing people can make an effort to work with deaf and hard of hearing people.

“Navigating deafness in a hearing world” Rachel Kolb | TEDxStanford

“Navigating deafness in a hearing world” Rachel Kolb at TEDxStanford

This TEDx Talk is done by a girl who is deaf, but has had over 18 years of speech therapy to be able to speak. She told a story of a time she gave a presentation in class and the teacher insulted her for not using an interpreter. The teacher condemned her for making the other students have to listen to her. This was heartbreaking as all of her efforts throughout the years were shattered by a teachers rude comments. She also talks about deaf children in hearing/deaf families. 90% of hearing families do not learn how to effectively communicate with their deaf family members.

“Deaf people are capable of doing anything hearing people can do, except hear.” She says. She grew up not thinking of herself as disabled because her parents, family, interpreters, speech therapists, and friends did not treat her as such.


These two TEDx Talks are very important for hearing people to watch and learn from. One from the viewpoint of a hearing person, and the other from the viewpoint of a deaf person. There is so much to be learned about deaf culture. These are a good start.

The Silent Language

Many people may think that this doesn’t matter, that it may not affect them; but it does. We are all affected by not being able to communicate. Deaf and hard of hearing people were born without one sense, but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. Deaf and hard of hearing people are just as capable of doing anything that hearing people do. But why is it that the far majority of hearing people make no effort to be able to communicate with deaf people? To learn the language that they use? The interpretive, beautiful language that creates a special bond between the communicators? ASL is a language that those communicating must interpret the signs and the body language and movement of the opposite person to understand the meaning of what they are trying to convey. It is it’s own language with grammar rules and structure.


So, my question is: Why do we hearing people make no effort to learn at least basic signs, so we can communicate with our deaf peers? It’s more important than we think. There are more deaf or hard of hearing people in the world than we think there are; but the deaf and hearing communities are so separated by this lack of ability to communicate.


Here’s a story of an experience I had. About a year ago, I was working as a cashier in the art supplies store I work at. A customer came up to check and and I politely started the usual “Did you find everything alright?” He said nothing. I instantly thought, “Ugh it’s one of the rude customers, at least say something.” It never would have crossed my mind that he couldn’t hear me. I went on to scan his things and almost finish out our interaction, but I had to ask for his email address as we do for everyone. I asked, we awkwardly stared at each other, and he made a gesture toward his ear and made a slight, quiet sound. I saw a small device in his ear, and he moved his mouth but not much came out. In that moment I realized he couldn’t hear me. I instantly felt awful. I felt rude. But in reality, I hadn’t done anything  really rude. It was just a bad situation. But I had come up short. At the end of the transaction, after the initial awkwardness, I still didn’t know how to act so out of my ignorance I even mouthed the word thank you and goodbye. I don’t even know why, it was just a bad instinct. I instantly regretted it, it was rude but it just happened. As if it helped the situation?

After this experience I realized how much work it is for them to communicate with hearing people. This happened to me once but this sort of situation happens all the time, maybe everyday for deaf or hard of hearing people. They have to deal with the inability to communicate  everywhere they go in the hearing world. Every time they go to the store they just read the screen. The cashier might think that person is being rude, but they’re just doing what they need to do.


The problem here is hearing people don’t make an effort to learn about deaf culture. We don’t even think about. We should be including deaf and hard of hearing people, not alienating them. They’re just as capable of doing anything that hearing people are and they don’t need to be fixed. They don’t need pity either, that’s not what this is about.

Innovation and Communications

My name is Seth and I am a senior in high school. I’m into musical theatre and wiener dogs. How’s that for an introduction.


Third hour, first semester I’m taking a course called Innovation and Communications. We’re to choose a topic, a problem, or something we don’t know too much about and educate ourselves as well as our peers. Our goal is simply to do something about it. 50 minutes a day we’re doing something. Educating, innovating, and hopefully making a change.


Some other topics students are exploring include encouraging kindness and positivity in our schools, changing the view of anti-smoking campaigns, educating high school students on rape culture, and educating and promoting equality of transgender people and students.


My friend Kelly (kellydrieth.blogspot.com) and I are grouping together in a project to promote awareness of the use of American Sign Language and respect for deaf/hard of hearing people. I’ll be using this blog to document whatever projects we do and what we learn.