Radio Inspire

How To Learn Sign Language

First Stage Production of “Beauty & The Beast” in ASL

These third and fourth-year American
Sign Language students rehearsing on the stage at Heritage High School are about
to make history. They’re rehearsing for what is believed to be the first-ever
American Sign Language production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Connor Randall, also a theatre student at
Heritage, says it’s different than a traditional production because there are
modifications in the staging made specifically for a deaf audience. “I think
the biggest most obvious challenge I faced is the fact that it has to be in a
different language. It’s very different from regular theatre in that blocking
you typically, in theatre, would like physically move yourself toward the
person but in ASL you have to pretend that you’re looking in their direction as
it allows for access for the deaf audience to be able to still see
what you’re signing.” Performing in another language is difficult enough but
for these actors, there’s also the stress of remembering the signs for new words
and song lyrics all while conveying a character to the audience. “It’s
challenging. I’ve never done anything like this before so like having the
confidence of being like a main character is very weird and remembering
everything – it’s difficult.” Add to that the pressure of knowing that they’re
staging a first-of-its-kind production. “It’s really just overwhelming in a sense
it’s kind of just like this is kind of like a first ever and having that said,
just like we – if we want to do it we have to do it right and we can’t like mess up
you know and if it’s not good enough, it’s not gonna you know it’s not gonna
be as enjoyable for the pointed audience that we have planned
for.” ASL teacher Melissa Cayton says students came up with the idea
themselves when she asked for ideas that aligned with the concept of
project-based learning and while she acknowledges students are feeling the
pressure she’s proud of them for wanting to give their deaf audience members a
first-in-the-nation theatrical performance. “In their second year of
learning they learn about all the barriers and the struggles
and the lack of communication access, direct signed ASL performances, rather
than going through an interpreter. So, by seeing their own passion and their own
like “Okay we can do this and we’re going to do this and we’re doing this.” it makes
me emotional. It makes me proud of them because everyone knows it has a greater
purpose they’re doing all this with their heart.” The Heritage High School ASL production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” takes place on March 3rd at 6:30
in the evening. Admission is free but the ASL program is accepting donations of
personal hygiene and common household amenities from laundry soap to
toothpaste for the Heritage High School Pantry.

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