After watching The Daily Moth to talk about Spring Awakening: Accessibility for Deaf interview between Jehanne McCullough, an activist, DJ Kurs, Deaf West Artistic Director and Linda Bove, American Sign Language (ASL) Master. McCullough protests the theatrical stance on Sim-Com (simultaneous communication, meaning signing and speaking at the same time) promoting Kurs and Bove to reconvene by interview as viewers occupied their time to watch why it is OK for Kurs and Bove to say that Sim-Com is good for the audience in theatre settings. That is a political marketing right there.
Tom Humphries wrote “Talking Culture, Culture Talking”, we the Deaf often told stories but we don’t know about “hearing” stories. I am not talking about stories we acquired from, say, Shakespeare, da Vinci and the like. I mean stories about when, where and how they discovered the Deaf. In theatre, there are three phenomena: (1) stories, (2) actors/actresses and (3) audience. We had been rehearsing in these triads. Our stories must be accurate; we must act them out; and the audience must appreciate them. Simple. All three phenomena are in ASL—no questions asked. Is the theatre a stronghold of this Sim-Com policy, the language bastardization?
Kurs and Bove does not meet the qualifications, which ranged from failing to vigorously oppose and hold discussions on apparent attempts to organize a “Sim-Com” in theatre. Kurs and Bove does not respect Deaf people’s preference to have ASL only——they are publicly disrespecting and demeaning, and breeding an environment that can cause language hegemony towards Deaf people. They were defensive on that part. Notice that they said the same thing when they said that Sim-Com is not allowed in educational settings, but theatrical sets, yes! They coached each other to make sure they are on the same page.
Charges of Sim-Com dominated statements made by McCullough after the show, I applaud McCullough for bringing it out the truth that it hurts Deaf people in long run to change the theatrical settings to promote healthy and inclusion, and listen to any suggestions the Deaf community would be happy with. There is one of couple things that Bove mentioned that Deaf West is not an ASL-centered theme, but a sign language theatre. That breeds a great deal of language hegemony—does Bove even realize what she was saying like that?
The chilling part is that when Kurs said that hearing people do not understand ASL—therefore, Deaf people cannot understand spoken English to make it even out. What is that supposed to mean? That is not even scholarly answer. Theater is all about knowledge that requires education, it is one of the greatest way to introduce the issue of human rights, and how Deaf people can be human rights champions right in their own communities by using ASL. That can be also incorporated in larger theatrical themes of celebrating diversity, encouraging tolerance, prevent “hearing-dominated” language, bullying, and resolving conflict in constructive ways. Not only that but Kurs and Bove do not realize that Audism is prevalent in theatrical settings they allow to make it happen.
From the show, Spring Awakening, it is huge disappointment that they allow signing and speaking at the same time allows language marginalization—does hearing actors on the theatre settings sounds funny and ungrammatical when following the Sim-Com policy? Think about that. I understood the importance of theatrical settings because of my experience as an actor for Deafhood Monologues. It was a huge wake-up.
DJ Kurs and Linda Bove need to apologize for being insensitive feelings for Deaf citizens. Commit Deaf West to ASL-centered to fulfill their demands. Admit that Sim-Com is a failure to prioritize the education of Deaf people during show.
Finally, acknowledge Sim-Com is built on false myths taken from hearing educators, honors language bastardization, appropriates Deaf culture in some of its art and stories and asserts the legacy of hearing supremacy and its language must be stopped.
Copyright © 2015 Jason Tozier
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