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lectricity is another great game to play in ASL class.  It helps you learn you alphabet better, as you will have to identify letters with your eyes closed.  Also, trying to pass the letter on to your neighbor as quickly as possible leads to lots of fun times.  Here are the rules.

First, pick two volunteers.  One will be the “Source” and the other will be the “Light”.  Next you need two lines of people, the lines must contain an equal number of people.  The two lines of people face away from each other and hold hands.  The “Source” connects the two lines together on one end, and the “Light” at the other, to make a circle with all the members facing the walls of the room.  The “Source” is the only person who should be looking towards the inside of the circle.  When everyone is ready, they will close their eyes.  The “Source” will sign a letter to each of the people they are holding hands with at the same time.  Those people will then pass the letter like a chain down the line until it reaches the “Light.”  The first team to get their electric current to the light wins.  If the letter is not correct, however, that team looses and the other team wins.

You can repeat this as many times as you want to.  It ends up being a really fun time.

eaf people can be really blunt some times.  They will go up to friends of theirs and say things like; “You got your hair cut.  I liked it better the other way.”  or, “Oh my gosh, you put on so much weight since the last time I saw you!”  If your hearing friend said something like that, you’d want to punch them in the face.  Some people find it hard to believe that this is considered polite behavior in the Deaf world, but it is.

Why would potentially making people feel bad about themselves be considered polite, you ask?  That’s easy.  Deaf people frequently feel like they have a small community of people whom they can trust, and that the wider world is against them.  Who knows what the people out there will tell them, they think.  But they know they can always rely on their friends to tell them the truth, even if it hurts.  The next time a Deaf person comes up to you and says, “is that a new shirt?  Well, I guess orange is just really not your color;”  just remember that they are showing you how much respect they have for you.  Enough to tell you the truth, no matter what you want to hear.

Another thing Deaf people frequently do that would be considered impolite in hearing society is “gossip” about each other.  Everybody always knows everyone else’s business, and will tell others about it too.  It’s not uncommon for someone to lean over to another person and say, “Did you hear that Sally’s getting a divorce from her husband?”  This is considered polite behavior.

Why is gossip considered OK, even desirable, in the Deaf world?   Deaf people want to feel like they’re a part of a wide community of people who care.  If you know their business, obviously they are valuable enough to the community that people talk about them and care about what’s happening in their life.  I think many people are also relieved that they don’t have to keep telling the story over and over.  If they are getting a divorce, for example, they can just break the news to some close friends.  It minimized the chance of  embarrassing incidents where someone must break the news to an acquaintance they barely know.  The person can just assume, probably correctly, that their acquaintance already knows their business, and move on from there.

Some of the practices in Deaf Culture can seem rude to hearing people.  I find that if you know why something happens, and why people are treating you “rudely”, you begin to understand that it isn’t rudeness at all.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  A sign of respect.

eaf West has been a really amazing experience.  I’ve been there all week for tech week, learning all the quick changes and taking care of all the costumes for dress rehearsal.  I know I should have realized this before hand, but Deaf West works with some AMAZING people.  I’ve met the gal in charge of making wigs for the Mark Taper Forum; the costumer does shows at all sorts of impressive places in LA, including the Mark Taper Forum; the director has done some amazing things too, most impressive to me was working with John Kander of Kander and Ebb fame (Chicago, Cabaret…).  I’ve met Linda Bove (!!!!!!!), and am also quick changing Deanne Bray (also known as Sue Thomas, FBEye!!!!!).   The best part is that everyone is sooooo nice.   If I think about things too much, I get a little intimidated by the caliber of people I’m surrounded by.  It’s impossible to feel that way for long, though, with everyone being so friendly and inclusive.

My grandmother asked me the other day how Deaf people know when to go on stage for their cues if they can’t hear or see where we are in the show.  I don’t know how many people have been backstage at a regular theater, but usually there is a speaker in the dressing room broadcasting what’s happening sound-wise on stage and that’s all the help the actor gets.  At Deaf West everyone, hearing and Deaf alike, gets little blue cue lights.  When the cue light goes on, it’s your warning to be ready; when it goes out again, it’s your cue to walk on.  There are cue lights everywhere, even one out in the audience in case someone needs to be signaled while they’re on stage.   There’s also a camera in the audience that picks up the whole stage.  In the dressing room there’s a TV monitor that broadcasts the camera footage so everyone can see the show as well as hear it.  Personally, I love this.  It makes me feel like I can watch some of the show even though I’m relegated to back stage.

The other interesting thing for me is adapting to quick changes.  I have over 20 quick changes in the show and only 3 of them are with hearing actors.  I’m used to just being able to say “OK” when I’m done and have the actor run on stage.  It doesn’t work that way for the two Deaf girls I’m helping.  Usually I’m directly behind them zipping them up or fixing their hair.  I’ve taken to either holding out a hand in front of them at about eye level and signing “OK” or holding out both hands on either side of them and signing “Finished”.  It seems to be working well, I just hope I’m not being rude.  If I am no one has enlightened me yet, so I’m going to assume I’m fine.

The production is really great, and I would recommend that everyone come to see it if you can.  Don’t bring your kids, though.  There are some lesbianism themes and some violence.  My Sister In This House is a really compelling story.  It really happened, in 1933 in Le Mans, France.  Really cool stuff.

‘ve been volunteering off and on for Deaf West Theater for about a year now, more off than on.   It’s been a strange experience.  Usually I go in to help with behind the scenes work or to help in the office, and I don’t meet any Deaf people.  I meet a lot of hearing people who know sign, but the folks who are assigned to deal with the volunteers are all hearing.  It’s probably better that way.  You never know what kinds of volunteers you’re getting or how competent their ASL is.

Prior to my volunteer stint, I also applied for an internship at Deaf West.  I’ve been in theater my whole life and I know what’s going on.   I’ve also worked lots of office jobs to support my theater habit, so I know my way around an office too.  I felt like the interview went really well, and I was excited to work with them.    Unfortunately, I was a few school units shy of qualifying for the internship.  That’s when I decided to volunteer instead.  It has been fun.  I didn’t realize how much I  miss real theater and real theater people.  Disney seems to either chew these people up and spit them out or slowly change them into happy Disney techs.   The debauchery and uncouthness that’s so prevalent back stage doesn’t really exist there, and that’s part of what I love so much.  When Deaf West asked for volunteers to help usher for their new production, “My Sister In This House,”  I signed up immediately, and also included my phone number in case they had any problems.

I was called later the same day.  They needed a wardrobe person for backstage ASAP, and remembered that I had a lot of experience with costuming.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.  They asked me to do basically the same job I’m doing at Disney… put people in costumes, make sure the costumes are being sent to the correct cleaning places (washing machine or dry cleaner?), and doing minor repairs if buttons break etc.  Instead of dealing with costumes for 100+ people like I do at Disney, they have a cast of no more than 20.  I figured that volunteering and giving up all those Saturday nights was worth it for all the experience I would be getting.  Working with Deaf actors would also allow me to improve my rusty ASL.  Then they let me know they would be paying me a stipend.

WOW!  Was all I could think.  My 2 favorite things in the world are ASL and Theater, and I would be getting paid to work at an ASL theater.  You can’t get better than that.  I start going to rehearsals this week and I can’t wait to meet everyone.  This is such an exciting opportunity!!

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