Working as a hearing director in a Deaf company

Kenneth Albers, actor/director with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, gives the following account: “During my 30-plus years in the professional theatre as an actor and director, some of my most memorable and fulfilling experiences have been those involving Deaf artists and American Sign Language. My work began in Cleveland in the 1970’s at what was then the Fairmont Theatre of the Deaf and is now Cleveland Signstage. I directed The Glass Menagerie and Waiting for Godot. Both of these ‘maiden voyages’ into Deaf culture filled me with a wonder for the theatricality of sign language and an unexpected respect for the education and training of the Deaf actors, who were not only able to grasp and understand complex concepts, but also translate them into another language and medium.

Two of my favorite experiences have been with Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles. I adapted and directed Euripides’ Medea. I watched a largely Deaf company of actors turn my turgid prose into a ‘poetry’ of sign. Later, I directed St. Joan, an immensely difficult prose play, not friendly to American Sign Language (ASL). Not only did the company embrace the play and its challenges, but they also managed to create new ‘signs’ for concepts. It was an amazing experience with colleagues who are as adept at their craft as any hearing actor.”