Research Publication Title

Bringing ASL into Educational Theatre through Nina Raine's "Tribes"

Presenter Information

Julia WhittenFollow

Major

Theatre

Faculty Mentor

Dr Amy Pinney

Keywords

Theatre, Education, ASL, CODA, HOH, Directing

Abstract

Last semester, I had the honor of directing an excerpt from Tribes by Nina Raine, in order to answer the question of “how can Tribes better teach us as artists about the ASL, CODA, and HOH communities?”. This scene explores the human experience through the eclectic lives of Billy’s family, who is coming to terms with his hearing disability. When Billy falls in love with Sylvia, who is stuck in between the hearing and hard of hearing worlds, the entire family, which includes the audience as well, must learn what it means to truly be heard and the power of identity and community. As the director, American Sign Language translator, and interpreter, I explored further into the ASL, CODA, and HOH communities to engulf my cast of six undergraduate actors, all of whom had limited signing experience, in these communities through intensive dramaturgy. As directors, we are encouraged to develop a metaphor for our pieces. For this production, I landed on this play being a ballet. After sitting down with my cast all together for the first time, I knew I made the right decision. There are so many shapes and complex movements that this script calls for, even if I was ignoring the fact that we utilize sign language. There are 6 incredibly strong personalities onstage, and if we think about this as a ballet, there is an incredibly purposeful (and chaotic beauty) to the interactions and relationships between them all. This piece shows that people in every stage of life are in search of meaningful human connection, so when we truly begin to listen to each other, we can form a more empathetic, more sympathetic, and more authentically human tribe.

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Bringing ASL into Educational Theatre through Nina Raine's "Tribes"

Last semester, I had the honor of directing an excerpt from Tribes by Nina Raine, in order to answer the question of “how can Tribes better teach us as artists about the ASL, CODA, and HOH communities?”. This scene explores the human experience through the eclectic lives of Billy’s family, who is coming to terms with his hearing disability. When Billy falls in love with Sylvia, who is stuck in between the hearing and hard of hearing worlds, the entire family, which includes the audience as well, must learn what it means to truly be heard and the power of identity and community. As the director, American Sign Language translator, and interpreter, I explored further into the ASL, CODA, and HOH communities to engulf my cast of six undergraduate actors, all of whom had limited signing experience, in these communities through intensive dramaturgy. As directors, we are encouraged to develop a metaphor for our pieces. For this production, I landed on this play being a ballet. After sitting down with my cast all together for the first time, I knew I made the right decision. There are so many shapes and complex movements that this script calls for, even if I was ignoring the fact that we utilize sign language. There are 6 incredibly strong personalities onstage, and if we think about this as a ballet, there is an incredibly purposeful (and chaotic beauty) to the interactions and relationships between them all. This piece shows that people in every stage of life are in search of meaningful human connection, so when we truly begin to listen to each other, we can form a more empathetic, more sympathetic, and more authentically human tribe.

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