Day by Day: Finding the Voices of Deaf Leadership on Stage


Leadership, Management & Business



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“So how do Deaf people sing?” I am often asked that question and my answer has been given more depth by the recent commercial successes featuring Deaf culture and American Sign Language (ASL) which have exposed more and more people to the value of Deaf culture and community. The recent Deaf West production of Spring Awakening on Broadway as well as the long running television show Switched at Birth, has created interest from a hearing community that often sees the disability rather than the benefit of a highly visual community with a refined communication skill. As a scholar of leadership I can also see how theatre can serve as a living laboratory with which to observe and study the cultural development of Deaf leadership in an era when we all seem to be continuously dealing with the heated debate of social justice versus the desire to privilege emotional pain and offended feelings. Casting hearing actors in a role written for a deaf person has been determined a “no-no.” But what about the reverse—casting Deaf actors in a musical intended for hearing, singing actors? As it turns out most playwrights seem to be curious about the translation process and are open to the idea, but that still leaves us with the process of representing a blended community, diverse in ethnicity and varied in communication.