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"National Theatre of the Deaf"

by Maddie Inserra

National Theatre of the Deaf

Stella Adler once said, "The word theatre comes from the Greeks. It means seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation." Beginning in the 1967, the National Theatre of the Deaf became a catalyst for change for Deaf and hearing actors (NTD, 2014). This company tours the world with productions for all types of people, especially the Deaf and hard of hearing. The National Theatre of the Deaf incorporates sign language with the musical arts in order to create a unique production for its audiences.
In the late 1950's, the Broadway production The Miracle Worker inspired Anne Bancroft and David Hays to believe that sign language could evolve to be a world performing art form. This play was about Helen Keller, a deaf and blind girl who moved audiences when by showing how sign language opened the world for her. Ten years later, Hays founded the National Theatre of the Deaf. This company is now the longest existing touring company in the United States.

David Hays was the NTD's first artistic director, and he understood the importance of appealing to the public and hiring actors who could accurately portray sign language to the audience (Kurrs, 2016). Hays worked with Edna Levine, a psychologist and expert in Deafness and who also wanted to create a professional theatre company for Deaf actors. They received funding through federal grants and faculty at Galludet University. Hays' goal was to create social change by showing the value of the Deaf individual and artist.
When audiences saw the plays for the first time they were inspired by the amazing ability of Deaf artists (NTD, 2014). The actors use a unique language to speak to the audience which is a combination of music, sign language, and spoken words (Sandahl, 2014). This company has a strong influence in the US theatrical community and has provided intercultural experiences for deaf and hearing audiences. The majority of the audiences are hearing, but the National Theatre of the Deaf makes an effort to support the Deaf community and work on increasing Deaf leadership in the show's production.

The National Theatre of the Deaf has achieved worldwide success, performed in every state and continent, and even places like the White House and Disney Channel. They have changed American Sign Language from being a stigma in 1967 to being seen as a beautiful, powerful, visual language (NTD, 2014). In addition, this program has created many opportunities for the Deaf and hard of hearing since it was first created. For example, close captioning, interpreters, and bi-lingual education are common to see in this day and age. New jobs have been created in this sector such as Deaf comedians, poets, storytellers, and music performers.

Nyle DiMarco was a Deaf model featured on the TV show "Dancing with the Stars."  Transitions to end discrimination against the Deaf have begun because of the cultural impact of this company.  There is no wonder the National Theatre of the Deaf is considered "A Wonder to Behold". It has changed many people's lives by bridging the gap between the Deaf and hearing communities.

[Article submitted: April 6th, 2017]

Authors unknown. (2014) National Theatre of the Deaf History. Retrieved from

Sandahl (October 31, 2014). National Theatre of the Deaf. Retrieved from

Kurrs (April 5, 2016). American Sign Language in Theatre. Retrieved from



Notes:  Also see: National Theater of the Deaf 1 | 2 | 3


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