Saturday, June 2, 2007

Off-Off-Broadway: A Sign of Brilliance

Hey -- Desmond here. Current mood: FRUSTRATED!!! I am new to blogging and didn't know that when you go to preview your'd better not hit the back button! I just spent the better part of an hour writing about a production that I really enjoyed...and now it's gone. Gosh darn it! I was clever and witty, too! We'll just have to see how much of a reserve I have...

Oh, well. I will try to remember what I wrote. (oh, yeah, I got the darn smily faces down, but I didn't know not to hit the back arrow...) Anyway, it started like this:

Hi ya'all -- Desmond, here. When I'm not JudgeWrangling (which Shay might tell you is far too often ), I like to see plays. Well, I saw a production the other day that reminded me of why Off-Off-Broadway is so darn frickin' cool and I wanted to share why it makes me happy!

I had the pleasure of seeing Christopher Durang's play "Beyond Therapy" performed by the New York Deaf Theatre. Now when I heard that the play was perfomed in sign language I felt like an idiot (or a jerk, you take your pick) because I literally thought: How are they going to pull that off??!! Now I know that Gallaudet University in DC and other such schools have drama depatments but I've never seen their plays so I don't know how they do it...?? How do you go beyond the audience members who can sign to reach those of us who don't? Sure, there are interpreters or but how do you fuse them into a play? How, how, how???

Well, there may be many ways but "Beyond Thearapy" had a wonderful solution: While the deaf actors playing Durang's roles only communicated through sign, there were also two speaking actors who would interpret the dialogue as they blended into the scenes. And I mean really blended. For example, much of the play takes place in a restaurant with the characters bring the story to life while our two speaking interpreters were sitting at one of the other tables. They would watch the action they were interpreting like any other extras in play would watch the action. In other scenes, like an apartment -- where it would be weird to have two "extra" people who are not written to be there -- the play was more abstract, placing the speaking actors upstage on a couch behind a skrim that represented a wall, or having them sit all the way down stage with their backs to the audience as if they were watching the scenes unfold. It was brilliant! True it did take some adjustment, but it was very easy to get used to. The interpreters would bring the dialogue to life just a tad but not too much since that acting was already being done on stage by passionately funny, well-connected actors. they all worked well together and certainly gave new meaning to the word 'ensemble'.

Now, I'm not trying to write a review -- that's not what this is about. The reason I wanted to write about this is because I feel that nowhere else but Off-Off-Broadway provides an opportunity for theatre companies like The New York Deaf Theatre to exist. It is only my oppinion, but I'm guessing that B'Way and Off-B'Way have too many revenue concerns to take a chance on something that is not going to be, at least they hope, a huge hit. And although deaf schools have plays and final class projects, that's not quite the same thing as deciding on a show, filling the seats, and maybe making a profit for more seasons...or at lest, hopefully, breaking even. But they can do it in Off-Off-Broadway! As I watched "Beyond Therapy" I was proud to be a part of this community -- it make me feel like we really can bring our art to life!

Before I leave you, there are two other things I realized:

(1) Sign language is soooooooo beautiful! I really think it is elegant, expressive, and passionate. I can't wait to learn! I decided after watching the play that I will make it a goal to someday learn that fascinating language.

(2) Thanks to the play's comic scenes that include phone calls, I realized that the deaf community is already quite used to tv phones -- they use them all the time to sign on the phone. They are already living in the future!!

Peace Out, ya'all!

xoxoxox =Desmond

No comments:

Post a Comment