This is one of the most intriguing things to come across my desk (okay, my purple writing chair) in a long time. Aaron Sawyer is the Artistic Director of the wave-making Red Theater Chicago, which champions “radical accessibility” for both artists and audiences. He approached Rébecca Déraspe and me about his idea of staging my translation of Rébecca’s You Are Happy in ASL and English, using both hearing and deaf performers. Of course, we both were delighted by the possibilities, and said yes right away.
This past weekend, Aaron directed a workshop in Chicago to see if his cross-cultural concept for the piece could fly. He cast two deaf performers as the lonely hearts Chloe and Jeremy, and a hearing actress as Jeremy’s sister Bridget (who comically manipulates the other two into becoming a couple, so that she can finally stop worrying about Jeremy and enjoy the blessed freedom of her bachelor life). It sounds as if the experiment was a roaring success. Here is an excerpt from Aaron’s email [the italics are mine]:
“…your play is accidentally an amazing depiction of Deaf Culture. What is it about French-Canadians, aye? :) The super direct line of questions Bridget engages in are very Deaf Culture- and there's even a hilarious Deaf Culture inside joke with metaphor and puns as those are difficult in ASL. In a way, you've written a play about the very hard truth in finding a partner if you're Deaf, with Deaf Culture directness and desperation. The way that you've broken the text with direct address to the audience is also very very in the spirit of Deaf storytelling and code switching or role switching.”
I don’t yet know whether Aaron’s company will programme our show next season… if so, I will be off to Chicago like a shot.