A Look Into Different Worlds - The Photo and Tribes

I missed a lot of first weekends while I was away so I caught the final weekend's offerings last night and Friday.

Friday night, I finally got to see The Photo by Dana Rayment.  It was presented as a workshop reading at Skirt's AFire Festival 2 years ago, but was on a Saturday afternoon and my Mom-Duties prevented me from getting to it, so I was pleased to hear that it would be presented as a full production by Theatre of the New Heart at C103.  My lovely friend Lisa was in town from Calgary so I also got to share with her a little of the #yegtheatre I am so proud of. It's a piece that probably needs trigger warnings as it was about a couple (Elena Porter and Michael Peng) dealing with the immediate aftermath of an at home stillbirth.  Each deals with it differently, Gina (Porter) fragmenting into a defense mechanism of denial and fantasy as she tries to take the perfect photo of her child's imagined life.  Mark (Peng) is hip deep in grief and confusion about how to help his wife and how to deal with the physical realities of the situation, not knowing whether to pander to Gina's fantasies or shake her into facing the truth of what has happened.  The script is well-crafted, giving us a little mystery about what exactly has happened at the beginning and building with inevitability to the final acceptance of both Gina and Mark.

Last night I took in Closing night of Tribes presented by Studio Theatre at the Timm's Centre as the MFA Production of Directing Candidate Amanda Bergen. Tribes was a fascinating look into what it is to be deaf within a hearing family.  The family (Ashley Wright, Judy McFerran, Mathew Hulshof, and Zoe Glassman) is loud and argumentative and at times a little unbearable, and deaf son Billy (Connor Yuzwenko-Martin) is often left out of parts of discussions as they make little effort to ensure he is able to see their faces to read lips.  When he asks for clarification, they summarize or brush off the details as unimportant. They have also kept him from the Deaf Community, having him learn to read lips and learn to speak and not learn to sign.  When he meets Sylvia (Bobbi Goddard), a girl with deaf parents who can sign and who is also going deaf, he falls in love and also learns to sign himself and it opens up a world of communication for him.  He struggles then to make his family meet him half-way in communication by learning to sign as well. It was a fascinating night.  We also went, by chance, on one of the two interpreted nights where four interpreters dressed in black and purple graced the stage alongside the action and signed all the speaking parts. The audience was roughly 50-75% deaf or hearing impaired and it made for a fantastic experience. The places that drew laughs were different for those who were hearing and those who weren't, sometimes because of the signing and sometimes because of what things actually meant to someone who was hearing vs. someone who was deaf.  It seemed to me, particularly with the piece, that the additional layer of interpreters onstage made it richer. I worried it would be distracting, but it was not, it was enriched. It has made me think about how we make theatre accessible for everyone.  I am not sure how to tackle it myself, but costs and staging for each show is so unique, but it would be interesting to look into how theatres could make their shows more accessible even when the shows are not specifically related to deaf issues. Wouldn't it be cool to see Shakespeare signed? Just thinking...

As a companion piece I recommend this article by Curious Arts about Tribes and Accessibility. There's also a link to a fundraising page where you can help pay for the the many interpreters who worked on the project.


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