Sunday, September 21, 2003

Yesterday was our trip to New York to see Big River. I can't possibly pay enough compliments to this production, whose cast included deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing actors, and which combined ASL and voice impeccably. The combination of the signs, voice, and music was absolutely brilliant! I've seen some ASL-interpreted performances before, of both plays and musicals, where there are a couple of interpreters stationed off to one side of the stage. I've seen productions of plays by Deaf theatre companies, where there are voice interpreters and everyone on stage is signing. But I've never witnessed a performance like this in my life... the entire cast signed, the hearing cast members spoke and sang their own parts, and other hearing cast members provided the voice-over for the deaf actors. The signing itself was choreographed so that actors who were signing lyrics performed in both visual and musical harmony.

I tried to give myself a day to think about how I could describe the experience of attending this performance, but words still fail me. Moving and amazing and incredible just aren't sufficient. This production was crafted, with tremendous skill, by people who are fluent in four languages: English, ASL, music, and dance.

We had front-row center-stage seats, and it's no exaggeration to say that the edge of the stage was within arm's length of us; so were the performers if they were standing at the front of the stage. When they moved quickly, we felt the breeze caused by their passing. And at one point, when the guy playing Tom Sawyer ran past and his foot landed mostly on/partway off the edge of the stage and I heard the sound of his shoe slipping, I thought I was about to become a bit more involved in the story than I'd bargained for. If he'd lost his balance at that moment, he'd have landed right in my lap. (Mind you, this wouldn't necessarily have been a bad thing... ;o) ) We also had a good laugh when Huck and Jim's raft proceeded along the river, and the fog started rolling in. The clouds of vapor from the dry ice drifted from the back of the stage toward the front... and then proceeded to cascade right off the stage and into the first couple of rows before dissipating. We were literally immersed up to our shoulders in mist. Not that I'm complaining, though -- I'd felt a bit overheated prior to that, but a few minutes of sitting in the fog cooled me off fast.

I wish there was a video for sale of this performance... I would buy it in a heartbeat. But in the absence of that, I certainly will be replaying my memory "video" of yesterday many times over.

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