The Taste of Sunrise,” a play that uses both sign language and spoken word, will be performed at CSUN from March 18th- April 3rd in the Little Theatre.
The story is set in the 1920s and is about a young deaf boy named Tuck who is forbidden to use sign language in his school, therefore he must find a way to express himself.
Originally written by Susan Zeder, it was first performed in Seattle at the Children’s Theatre in 1996.
Doug Kaback, lecturer of the Theatre Department, and Bob Hiltermann of Deaf West Theatre are co-directing the play with a cast that consists of four deaf actors, some who are hard of hearing, and others who can hear.
After working with deaf students at CSUN, Kaback said he wanted to bring a deaf theatre piece to the stage.
The answer was found in “The Taste Of Sunrise” and he partnered up with long time friend and collaborator, Hiltermann. The play represents a powerful sense of community.
This marks the third time the two directors are working on a project since they first met in Seattle approximately 10 years ago.
Hiltermann chose to work on the project because it was something different than normal theater pieces.
Hiltermann said this play marks “two cultures uniting together” to make a unique work of art. The experience has proved rewarding because it’s a rare opportunity to perform a play with a deaf character as the lead.
The interpreters constantly sign what is being said during rehearsals. The lines of communication were completely fluid for the cast.
Kaback said this is a great bridge building process between deaf and hearing students, and there is a mutual expression between the two groups that has proved to be very exciting.
Kristen Egermeier, who plays a midwife named Nell Hicks, has been rehearsing with the cast since the second week of the Spring semester.
She said that like the play, in rehearsals, language doesn’t need to be necessarily verbal to communicate with others.
Although she has learned just a little bit of sign language from fellow cast members, Egermeier still can communicate with everyone using different types of communication.
As an actress, working on this project allows her to do something that has a very important message, Egermeier said.
The play itself consistently uses two languages, sign and English.
When a character speaks aloud, an onstage interpreter signs what they are saying, and if a character is signing then the audience will hear a voice-over of what they are signing.
The set is bare-boned and minimalist so as to emphasize the dialogue and sign being performed on the stage.
Each character has a shadow interpreter, or a person who stands near them and imitates their every move including signing what they say.
According to Hiltermann, most shadow interpreters are kept so together, but he wanted to bend the rules in this case and keep the interpreter separated from their actor counterparts.
While the action takes place on stage, all of the actors sit off to the side of the stage in chairs, completely visible to the audience.
In addition, the actors do sounds produced for the show on stage using old-time sound effects machines so that the noise can be heard and seen by the audience. Essentially the sign will be onstage, while most of the sound will be coming from offstage.
This play is sure to be a unique experience for all who are lucky to see it here and at the Deaf West Theatre, where it will be making another run.