Theaters occasionally will hire a sign language translator to stand at the side of the stage and interpret the action for deaf theatergoers.
Kent State University at Trumbull will merge the hearing and deaf worlds with a production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" that opens Friday for a two-weekend run.
The deaf theater production was written by Iosif Schneiderman, who also is directing.
The Evil Queen (Bobbi Jo Killing, left) looks in her magic mirror (Melanie Spurk).
Tribune Chronicle / Andy Gray
Daniel-Raymond Nadon, director of the theater program at Kent-Trumbull, said the idea has been in the works for awhile.
Schneiderman, who was born in Russia and now lives in Cleveland, has worked as a professional clown and mime and appeared on Broadway in the musical "Big River." He came to Kent-Trumbull in 2009 to demonstrate the use of gesture as a universal language, Nadon said. It was so well-received that they decided to bring him back for a longer tenure.
"He had already directed and adapted the story of 'Snow White' at Gallaudet (University in Washington, D.C.) and locally in deaf venues but never in a community theater / university theater environment," Nadon said. "We thought this would be an interesting new idea to give this a try."
WHAT: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 15
WHERE: Kent State University at Trumbull Theatre, 4314 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Champion
HOW MUCH: $10 for adults, $8 for students and senior citizens and $6 for children ages 11 and younger. For reservations or more information, call 330-675-8887.
All of the dialogue is signed on stage as well as spoken, and the sign language becomes part of the staging.
"This is much more egalitarian in that deaf audiences can understand it equally to hearing audiences," Nadon said. "Normally, they have to struggle (when there is one interpreter at the side of the stage). They don't receive the same experience that those of us who can hear do."
The style requires some staging changes. Actors need to make sure their sign language can be seen by all theatergoers, and it also effects how the production is lit.
"We're typically lighting for faces," Nadon said. "Top lighting is bad for seeing signers sign."
The cast features a mix of deaf and hearing actors, and with both Schneiderman and his assistant director being deaf, the cast and crew have learned to communicate with each other through the universal language of gesture.
The cast features Katrina Bachman, Miranda Bachman, Darren Ball, Pam Beish, Maggie Bork, Kurt Cullison, Brooke Earl, Makennah Earl, Christine Fowler, Shane Glaeser, Alex Jones, Victoria Kaczmarek, Bobbi Jo Killing, Lexa Miller, Tiffany Mulloy, Aidan Scott, Michael Smithberger, Melanie Spurk, Lacey Tolla and Jaycob Whitmore.
The production received financial support and grants amounting to more than $10,000 from the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley, Hine Fund of the Youngstown Foundation, the Triple T Foundation, the Ohio Association for the Deaf, KSU's Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, KSU's Department of English, and the KSU Diversity Council and Trumbull Campus Theatre.