theater for the oppressed

It’s important to stay vigilant about the other transgressions going on with Trump, but examining this Hamilton thing isn’t frivolous. This is the country’s future leaders coming from a place of such DEEP insecurity that they can’t handle MILD criticism in a public forum. The press and the president-elect are attempting to shut down a reaction WELL within the rights of those expressing displeasure. If you think this is an isolated incident? That it won’t continue to happen every time free speech is exercised to dissent? I beg to differ. We’re getting our first looks at the character of this administration in power. Let’s not look away… Historically, leaders who abuse power have been extremely insecure, have overreacted to small slights. It’s already starting. And as artists, our work is often considered frivolous, unnecessary, as such it’s often the first to go when the hammer of oppression falls. Theaters closed, books burned, art irreverently depicting those in power prohibited. We’ve seen these warning signs with every rise. Don’t criticize people’s worry just because it’s related to art and not money or policy. It matters. Art matters. The cast of Hamilton made a heartfelt, onstage plea, using their visibility, to a leader that’s supposed to represent ALL of us. To have that rebranded by the president elect and the press as harassment (which is a CRIME by the way) is censorship, plain and simple… Art is our voice. Art is our joy. Art is our resistance. All the most successful oppressors have understood this. Don’t give it up willingly.
Deafness is having a cultural moment. So why are deaf roles still handed to hearing actors?
The current deaf staging of "Spring Awakening" on Broadway demonstrates that non-hearing actors are just as capable as the hearing.

Sandra Mae Frank, who stars as Wendla in Deaf West Spring Awakening on Broadway, wrote a great Op-Ed for the Washington Post. Some highlights:

“#DeafTalent, the official hashtag to promote deaf artists and spread awareness about oppression in the theater, has had a big impact on the deaf community, but the story of its creation is an ugly one. The community has stood by and watched in frustration for years as roles for deaf characters have been filled by hearing actors: “Medeas,” “Listen to Your Heart,” “After the Silence” and “The Secret Life of Words,” to name a few.

In my career, I have started attending auditions for characters who are not written to be deaf. Does it change the story to cast a deaf person in a hearing role? Not necessarily. Look at the many updates to the plays of Shakespeare, which are constantly being staged in different eras with different gender actors and different settings. Which of his plays would work as a deaf production? Any of them. It’s about the director’s vision. That’s the beauty of interpretation.

Plenty of casting directors don’t have open minds or the imagination to make it work, but that’s where it becomes my job, as a deaf actor, to educate them. The hearing community can do its part too. One of the hearing cast members in “Spring Awakening” was offered an audition for a hard of hearing role recently. He politely turned it down, and explained that he works with amazing deaf actors who should be considered. That took tons of willpower. But we need more.

There are many deaf actors just like me, working hard to be seen. It fills my heart to see how we are finally being recognized. We are here to stay, and people should get ready to see us at auditions everywhere. We will show how we can bring the beauty of deaf culture to a character, but more importantly, how we can bring our abilities as actors. We are actors; we just happen to be deaf.