Sarah's Stories - Deaf Actors

1 decade 2 years 2 months ago Thursday, March 16 2006 Mar 16, 2006 Thursday, March 16, 2006 1:44:00 PM CST March 16, 2006 in News

These students from Pace Performing Arts in children's education range in age from 9 to 17. They're reheasing "The Miracle Worker," the story of Helen Heller, who became deaf and blind when she was only 18 months old. Her family sent her to the Perkins Institute to study with Annie Sullivan who taught her things have names.

"Those things that Annie is spelling into her hands are words," said Production Director Angela Howard, "and so it, like, opens up a whole new world for her."

But those experiences aren't just part of the play because this production includes two deaf performers, Kyle Mengwasser and Haley Allen, among its 25 cast members.

They sign while another actor is their voice.

"I know how dreadful it was for you there, Annie."

"I'm with a hearing cast, which I'm not used to," explained Allen. "At the deaf school, you have people signing all the time. You have to have visual cues with this because you can't always understand what the other people are saying. So, they have to provide visual cues for me to know when I start signing."

"This one is different because I'm actually working with a deaf person. I've never done that before. And, it's just very emotional and touching."

"We've had to make sure actors talk directly to them so they can see when to stop talking."

"So you will understand when they do have trouble."

"But, it's really been very rewarding."

And, these rewards will take these hearing and non-hearing performers far, by learning there's a place for everyone.

"These guys, my kids who are hearing kids, have discovered the deaf students are no different from them. They're just deaf."

"These kids amaze me everytime I see them perform. They're just, they rise to the occasion. You go, 'Where did these kids come from?' But, they are so good and you would just really enjoy the, enjoy every play they do. But, this one is particularly touching because, well, let's just say bring your handkerchiefs when you come 'cause it will make you cry."

"Hearing people, I don't know who they are. They aren't going to be able to understand me. They're going to think I'm a freak. Once I got involved with this practice, I was fine with it. They're wonderful people, really nice people."

And, in the end, these actors and actresses may have gained something even more valuable than applause.

"I made friends with all these wonderful people who are acting in this show."

You can see the Pace performance of "The Miracle Worker" this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. A special Sunday performance benefits the Teen Institute. For ticket information, call the Missouri Theatre at 875-0600.

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