The Signs of Music
Deaf West Theater Company’s recent musical production of Spring Awakening gives performance art another dimension through sign. Based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play of the same name, Spring Awakening explores the lives of prepubescent teens in late-19th century Germany as they struggle to understand their burgeoning sexuality in a society where the conservative adults try to suppress it. As a result, the ill-informed kids are left to maneuver their transition into adulthood all on their own, leading to tragic consequences. Musicals may seem counterintuitive for a deaf theater company, but DJ Kurs, the company’s deaf artistic director, says otherwise- this play is ultimately about the breakdown of communication between parent and child, which relates to the Deaf community because “ninety percent of us are born to hearing parents, and we’re dealing with [a cultural] divide from the beginning.”
What is unique about Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening is the fusion of Deaf and hearing culture into one complex show rather than the translation of hearing culture into Deaf culture. Surely, this production of Spring Awakening, as it challenges everyone’s senses, has added a new vital dimension of Deaf perspective to social commentary.
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