Deaf actor and director Garrett Zuercher established the theater collective Deaf Broadway in March with the goal of providing unprecedented visual language access to live theater for the deaf community. Filmed in real time via webcam with diverse deaf talent from around the world, Deaf Broadway provides full and complete American Sign Language (ASL) access to Broadway classics.
Each production uses Zoom recordings to interpret existing shows, often playing captioned video side-by-side as actors sign. Their first production was a presentation of Sweeney Todd with an all-deaf cast, with actors signing beside the recorded performers, their movements encroaching on the borders of Zoom squares. Since then, Deaf Broadway has performed seven musicals and posted five online, most directed by Zuercher. Their latest, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is now streaming on YouTube. Zuercher said that the company offers theater “for the deaf, by the deaf.”
“It’s incredibly rare to see a fully deaf cast, especially in a musical,” said Joey Caverly, a deaf Broadway performer and director of artistic sign language. “An entirely deaf cast of professional actors in the same room, so to speak, working on a show—it doesn’t happen.”
Zuercher said Deaf Broadway has “served as connective tissue” during the pandemic. Deaf Broadway’s version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example, features actors from the U.S. and Canada—the result of an open casting call. Zuercher said this type of cohesion between deaf performers wasn’t possible before COVID-19.
“During the pandemic, accessibility is especially difficult since recorded shows lack visual language access,” Zuercher said. “The world has flattened to fit the internet, and though recorded shows online fill a theatrical void, they don’t come with visual language access.”
Zuercher hopes Deaf Broadway will continue past the pandemic. He said the productions prove what deaf theater professionals can do and that they should be given more opportunities, but that those opportunities should start at the top.
“It’s time for us to be invited to the table, not just as actors, but as producers, directors, writers, designers, and so on,” he said. “We have many stories to tell.”
Read Full Article from Daily Beast (NY) (11/08/20)
Author: Blackwood, Nicole
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