November 12, 2008
The National Theatre of the
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then perhaps it was only
appropriate that I was left speechless at the National Theatre of the
Deaf's performance of One More Spring…” Reuven M. Lerner (The Tech).
It may not be exactly a thousand words in one moment on stage, but the
National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) has combined American Sign Language
with live theatrical performances to bring the deaf community and
culture together with the hearing world. Founded in 1967, by David Hays,
the NTD has brought theatre to the public for over forty years. Soon
after its establishment, the group created an offshoot program for
younger deaf audiences called The Little Theatre of the Deaf. Some of
the NTD’s performers have even appeared on popular children’s television
programs such as Sesame Street. Within the first year of the NTD’s
existence it made its first ever appearance on Broadway and began to
gain critical acclaim.
The NTD employs a combination of both Deaf and hearing performers to
create their distinctive, dramatic style. According to the NTD’s
homepage, “That style, which has been referred to as ‘poetry for the eye
and the ear’, links the visually expressive American Sign Language with
the spoken word, allowing audiences to see and hear every word”
(National Theatre of the Deaf). During the NTD’s long history it has
done well over ten thousand performances and toured all over the U.S.
and the world. Many established stage and screen actors have also worked
in partnership with the NTD to help bring its works to the public. All
of the NTD’s hard work has helped to breakdown many barriers for the
The effects that have been felt by the work of the NTD not only extend
to the audiences, but to the performers as well. As Bobbie Beth
Scoggins, President of The National Association of the Deaf recalls, “As
a former participant in the NTD Little Theatre of the Deaf years ago, I
have a certain fondness for this body. The impact of that experience
lingers with me yet. It is this kind of impact that NTD is destined to
make in the lives of performers yet to come” (Waltrip). So, in the
process of building bridges and making history through theatrical
performances, the acting troupes are rewarded with life long memories
that significantly enrich their own lives. These kinds of connections
are what make the end products of the NTD so noteworthy.
The work of the NTD is still going strong, but is certainly not
finished. As one member of the acting troupe, Michael Lamitola, states,
“Performing on stage is not the company's only challenge… We're role
models… Some places are behind on the issue of deafness” (Battista). The
acting company continues to travel around the world with the intent to
not only entertain, but to educate. Many of the locations that they have
toured have had little exposure to deaf culture and the abilities of
Deaf individuals. Some of these locations have even been inspired to
start their own versions of the NTD. As the saying goes, “The show must
go on” and as long as the National Theatre of the Deaf continues to open
minds and entertain it surely will.
Battista, Carolyn. Theater Group Addresses The Deaf. The New York Times.
December 5, 1985. Viewed: November 10, 2008.
Lerner, Reuven M. Despoty poor script, Theatre of the Deaf excels. The
Tech Online Edition. Volume 111, Issue 4: Tuesday, February 12, 1991.
Viewed: November 10, 2008.
Unknown Author. National Theatre of the Deaf. Updated: 2007. Viewed:
November 10, 2008.
Waltrip, Vikee. National Theatre of the Deaf News. Wisconsin Association
of the Deaf. WADNet Post. Updated: June 24, 2008. Viewed: November 10,
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