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.