REVIEW: “Different worlds intersect in Kent-Trumbull production”
by Andy Gray
A Brief History
The year was 2009 . . .
This project was an exciting venture between both campus and community, as well as between hearing and Deaf worlds: accessible to both Deaf and hearing audiences through a mixture of ASL, spoken English, gesture and mime. The play is a contemporary written English adaptation of the medieval (late Middle English) British medieval morality play, Everyman. While Conley’s For Every Man, Woman and Child is inspired by the Christian medieval English morality play, Everyman, it is clearly set in contemporary times, and pays respect to several religions in addition to Christianity, including Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Sun Worship. This is a play that addresses the very foundation of issues in celebrating diverse populations.
The play calls for a “carnival atmosphere”. We intended to give the performance a “Cirque du Soleil” carnival style (costumes and setting). There also was a festive pre-production atmosphere in the theatre lobby that included popcorn and other concessions, jugglers, clowns, and other circus-type performers wandering around the area. At the Opening Night Performance (September 25), we added a table at which playwright Willy Conley sat, offering to autograph copies of his recently published anthology of plays, Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays (Gallaudet University Press, 2009).
This project allowed us as a cast, crew, and directing team to explore a number of crossroads between a number of otherwise dissimilar cultures and theatrical styles. The play meets at the intersections of contemporary American theatre and medieval British theatre, of traditional theatre forms and those of National Theatre of the Deaf, of an onsite production and a tour (we are taking the show on the road), of town and gown, of Deaf/deaf and hearing cultures, of male and female, of Christian in relation to other faiths, and of education through entertainment. The important journey of the characters, Everyone (male and female), into uncharted territory is matched by the incredible journey of our actors, designers, directing team, and crew–brave soldiers all. I am proud of the amazing team we have assembled and of the hard work we have achieved together, in this intersection.
~~Daniel-Raymond Nadon, Stage Director
I believe Willy Conley wanted everyone (not just Everyone) to see how important it is that we all communicate with each other and communicate successfully. As Sign Master for this play, I had the unique opportunity to observe this wide range of hearing, deaf, signing, and speaking actors. What was most impressive was that they all made the effort to overcome the nearly impossible communication barriers. I cannot begin to tell you how I feel working with this wonderful group: watching their conversations (ASL, English, or something in between) and the other ways they socialized and practiced with each other. Their taking the time and effort to better understand a language and culture other than their own made this play experience a success, even before opening night.
~~Nancy M. Resh, Sign Master
A medieval morality play is supposed to teach the lessons of Christian “right” conduct. Willy Conley’s adaptation of (perhaps) the most famous of British morality plays, Everyman, also attempts to teach “right” conduct. While this modern morality play still holds much of the Christian ethos of the original work, it also brings in much contemporary pathos (such as a passionate plea for self-reflection) and logos (such as a reasoning for tolerant behavior). For me, the irony has been that, in producing this play, we have had to learn to practice what the play preaches. Observing and trying to help the actors struggle through communication barriers, through performance breakdowns and breakthroughs, through tears of frustrating self-disappointment, through tears of joyful self-discovery: it has been both a torment and a pleasure. (Isn’t it funny how those two feelings often come hand-in-hand?) I am both honored and proud to have worked with this troupe. We are everyone, all of us.
~~Carol L. Robinson, Dramaturg
The performances were held at the Kent Trumbull Theatre (September 25, 26, & 27–at the end of Deaf Awareness Week–and October 3, 4, & 5). On Saturday, September 26, at the end of Deaf Awareness Week, there was a Fundraiser Performance that featured an audience-invited Forum (involving Ohio Deaf Leaders), held after show. Performances ran for two weekends, and then the troop traveled to Loudonville, New York (just north of Albany) to perform at the 24th International Conference on Medievalism at Siena College on October 9, 2009.
Who is Willy Conley?
A professional actor, director, sign master, and playwright, Conley has won awards from VSA arts 2000 Playwrights Discovery Competition at the Kennedy Center, the PEW/TCG National Theatre Artist Residency Fellowship, the Sam Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition, The American Deaf Drama Festival, the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, the ’97 and ’99 NeWorks Festival in Boston, the Laurent Clerc Cultural Fund, and the Lamia Ink! International One-Page-Play Festival. Published plays include “The Hearing Test” (in No Walls of Stone, Gallaudet University Press), Broken Spokes (Tactile Mind Press), The water falls. (Tactile Mind Press), The Universal Drum (TYA/USA Theatre for Young Audiences Today), and a collection of his plays has just been published: Vignettes of the Deaf Character: And Other Plays (Gallaudet University Press). As an actor, Conley has performed with the National Theatre of the Deaf, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Amaryllis Theatre Co, Colonial Theatre, Shakespeare-in-the-Park in Rhode Island, Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf, New York Deaf Theatre, Quest: Arts for Everyone, Sunshine Too, and Center Stage. Recently, he appeared in an episode of NBC’s Law & Order: CI ‘Silencer’; other films include: Wrong Game and Stille Liebe (Secret Love). He holds an M.A. in Creative Writing/Playwriting from Boston University (where he studied with Nobel laureate Derek Walcott), and an M.F.A. in Theatre from Towson University. He is an Associate Artist with Center Stage, an Affiliate Artist with Quest, and an Associate member of The Dramatists Guild. In addition, most people do not know that he was the first Deaf person to receive national certification as a Registered Biological Photographer (#319) after having graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Biomedical Photographic Communication.
This role was play by four people: two signers (one man and one woman) and two speakers (one man and one woman).
|Cleric Richard Costes
|Allah, Strength & Ensemble
|Buddha, Good Deeds & Ensemble
|Great Spirit, Riches, 5 Senses & Ensemble
|Vishnu, Sister, 5 Senses & Ensemble
|Ra, Mother, 5 Senses and Ensemble
|Jesus Christ, Cousin, Strength and Ensemble
|Sister, Beauty, and Ensemble
|Haley Jane Otto
|Sister, Beauty and Ensemble
|Knowledge, 5 Senses, & Ensemble
|Victoria Van Horn
|Nancy M. Resh
|Carol L. Robinson
|Technical Director/Scenic Design
|Christine L. Jones
|Slides and Projection
|Light Board Operator
|Sound Board Operator
|Carol L. Robinson
|Coordinator of Theatre
|Web Page Design
|Carol L. Robinson
We are extremely grateful to the below organizational and individual sponsors whose generosity allows us to bring this very special performance to life!
Kent Trumbull Theatre
KSU Trumbull Diversity in Action Council
KSU Trumbull Student Services
KSU Trumbull Student Disability Services
The Ciuba-Rogan Family
David & Diane Starr