Singing with Sign Language: Deaf West On Broadway


[ot-caption title=”A scene from Spring Awakening on Broadway; the adaption with Deaf West is taking place from December to January. (via Otterbein, Flickr)”]

The beloved company Deaf West will be hitting the stage from now into 2016, and they will be performing the first broadway musical of its kind.  Deaf West is the musical group made for actors with disabilities, allowing them to still perform onstage. This company was formed in 1991 by Ed Waterstreet, and it is the first real Sign Language Theatre in the United States. The productions, actors, and directors of Deaf West have won more than 80 theatre awards for their work.

All of the actors in this production are incredibly gifted entertainers with prominent stage presences. The prospect of having performers that cannot hear does sound challenging, but the cast finds a way for it to be done. Deaf West first came into the spotlight with their production of Spring Awakening, which premiered in California and stunned critics such as The Los Angeles Times.  The company is set to bring Spring Awakening to the broadway stage.

Spring Awakening is a musical about children in a revolt against what the adults in their life want them to do. This production is very well known and loved in the theatre world, proven by the show’s astonishing collection of eight Tony Awards. Deaf West’s take on Spring Awakening includes sign language from the deaf actors, but background singing from non-deaf members of the cast. For example, if the deaf actress playing the part of Wendla Bergmann was caught in a scene where she had to sing, she would sign the lyrics of the song and allow a different actress to sing for her.

The members of the group demonstrate that even people with disabilities can perform in a musical. This strikes home for many of the viewers that come to see their performances. The group brings this show to another level entirely, portraying that the lessons learned in this musical can not only be expressed through words, but in actions, as well.

Tickets are being sold now on Deaf West’s website, and they will be having shows continuing from December 6th to January 24th . This version of Spring Awakening will be a major change from regular Broadway shows, but it is worth seeing in order to praise all the hard work this incredible group has done to make this production come alive.

Sources: Latimes, springawakeningthemusical