1. In Photos: American Sign Language and Spring Awakening

    The success of Deaf West Theatre’s Broadway revival of the 2006 rock musical, performed in American Sign Language and English, proves how culture thrives by serving more communities.
  2. 1 / 9 Deaf West Theatre’s revival of Spring Awakening, the rock-musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play about teen sexual exploration, considers a question that is increasingly relevant: how to tell stories in more inclusive ways. Joan Marcus
  3. 2 / 9 The Wall Street Journal marveled at the accomplishment of combining deaf and hearing actors’ talents, then ranked it “among the most emotionally charged renderings of a musical to come to Broadway in the past decade.” Joan Marcus
  4. 3 / 9 It almost goes without saying that the visual nature of ASL lends itself to this kind of theatrical impact, affecting even predominantly hearing reviewers. Since ASL has no written form, performance has a unique place in Deaf culture. Joan Marcus
  5. 4 / 9 Spring Awakening, as innovative as it might feel, isn’t the first ASL-centered show on Broadway. The Los Angeles-based Deaf West Theatre, which has been operating since 1991, received accolades in 2003 for its adaptation of Big River. Joan Marcus
  6. 5 / 9 Some of the current hearing curiosity about ASL can feel like voyeurism, without allowing much understanding of the deeper issues that deaf people still face in the U.S. and worldwide. Joan Marcus
  7. 6 / 9 To say, then, that Spring Awakening dazzles mainstream audiences with its staging of that astounding novelty, a deaf musical, might be to overlook the full significance of this show. Joan Marcus
  8. 7 / 9 With every production element, Spring Awakening prompts audiences to consider fundamental questions about the nature of full inclusion and communication. Joan Marcus
  9. 8 / 9 Their use of sign language, which often includes touching each other’s bodies to create explicit physical and linguistic meaning, heightens the musical’s sexual themes. Joan Marcus
  10. 9 / 9 Instead of having the hearing actors merely “translate” for the deaf leads, Spring Awakening creates a space for deaf and hearing individuals to enter a relationship that feels two-sided, and almost unspeakably intimate. Joan Marcus
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