Nobody’s Perfect, Indeed

My wife and daughter recently went to a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. One cool facet of this show was that it was in ASL. Nobody’s Perfect, originally written by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney (Simon and Schuster, 2006), tells the story of 10-year old Megan meeting a new hearing classmate, Alexis, for the first time while in the middle of planning her “positively purple birthday party.”

This performance, which ran at the Kennedy Center from October 19 to November 3, was geared towards younger audiences and only one hour long. Directed by Coy Middlebrook (who is hearing), and assisted by Russell Harvard (a rising young Deaf actor who was recently in CSI: New York), Megan, played by Tami Lee Santimeyer, is confronted with the reality of facing life in a hearing world, planning for a birthday party for a young girl who is coming of age and starting to identify with her deafness. Megan invites Alexis to her birthday party, but Alexis says no.

Megan is hurt, confused, and thinks Alexis said no because she is deaf. To Megan’s horror, she is paired with Alexis on a science fair project. Things could not get worse for Megan!

Drawing upon her childhood experiences growing up deaf, Matlin joins up with Cooney to write Nobody’s Perfect. The book and the play do not parallel each other, but there are significant parts that are commonplace among plays, including songs “Purple,” “Perfection,” and “Fine with Nine.” These songs were sung in both ASL and spoken English.

In light of recent budget setbacks by prominent deaf theater groups such as the National Theatre of the Deaf and Deaf West Theatre, this is quite a big step for the Kennedy Center, which has featured either deaf actors or interpreting for shows in the past. To have a play about a deaf girl is a big boost to the deaf theatre community.

Now playing with the final weekend coming up, is Gallaudet University’s fall theatre production, Goya en la Quinta del Sordo, directed by Willy Conley and Iosif Schneiderman. Goya, who is famously known for his Third of May 1808 painting depicting the brutal executions of innocent Spanish citizens that were shot by Napoleon’s troops during the Spanish war of liberation. A synopsis of the play is below:

When one loses the sense of hearing or sight, does humanity’s truth become more clear and honest? The Spanish painter Francisco de Goya–one of the forefathers of the modern art movement–created his most forthright and provocative works after turning profoundly deaf in mid-career. Two Deaf visual theatre artists, Willy Conley and Iosif Schneiderman, revisit their nonverbal, visual-gestural play–sans sign language and spoken English–with a new cast of Gallaudet University students to further explore the map of Goya’s psyche in search of his quinta del sordo.

While it may be too late for some of you to watch Goya, it’s not too late to watch other 2007-2008 productions coming from the Little Theatre of the Deaf (the children’s wing of the National Theatre of the Deaf), Beware the Brindlebeast or upcoming springtime productions from Gallaudet and other theatre companies.

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