Things I learned while watching Scapina at SCT last night

One-note-song time again (Larry harping on Seattle Children's Theater).

Last night, Valorie and I went to see the opening night of "As You Like It" by Shakespeare (adopted by Don Flemming), and "Scapina" by Moliere (adopted by Todd Jefferson Moore).

I haven't laughed that hard since I saw "The Producers" on Broadway.

These shows were SO funny.

As You Like It had huge amounts of physical comedy, and was wonderfully acted.  The actors in the show had almost perfect timing, they really nailed the show.  There's a wrestling match that's straight out of the WWE in the middle of it, that had the audience roaring.

Scapina, in particular was an eye opener.  You see, it was produced as a joint production of SCT and SCT's Deaf Youth Drama Program.  As such, about half the cast was hearing, the other half was either deaf or hearing impaired.  It was simultaneously signed and spoken - while the deaf cast members were signing, other cast members would speak their lines.

This play was a total hoot - lots of physical comedy and (quite literally) Keystone Kops style hijinks, Valorie and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

Some things I didn't realize...

  1. ASL clapping is done by waving your hands, fingers outstretched in the air.
  2. Sidekicks are essentially required accessories for deaf and hearing impaired people - from what I saw in the audience (and on stage), they've ubiquitous.  Whenever an actor in the play received a message, it was on a sidekick.
  3. There is a huge opportunity for physical comedy when the actors in the play need to use their hands to speak.  There's one scene where one character is holding a sausage.  When they have to speak, they hand the sausage to a neighboring actor, recite their lines, and take the sausage back.  Later on in the show, the character complains because it looks like the sausage has been trampled on.
  4. Theater for the deaf is as much about physical presence as it is about skill in reading the lines.  As much of the play was acted out on peoples faces and body language as it was from the words they signed/spoke.
  5. It's REALLY cool seeing hearing and deaf actors on stage together in the same production - it brings a whole new dimension to the show.  I know it's been done in "Big River", but this is the first time I've seen the technique used.  My mom saw Big River at Roundabout, but I hadn't had a chance to see it.  She was quite sceptical before she saw the show but she absolutely raved about it when we talked the next day.

I know it's late (the shows only run for tonight and tomorrow night), but if you're in the Seattle area, you absolutely should go and see these shows - just show up at the SCT box office at either 6:45 or 8:00 and you should be able to get tickets.

Edit: Added credit to As You Like It, they got short shrift in the original.


Comments (4)

  1. Eden says:

    Hi Larry,

    I saw Big River with my wife in June. Neither of us realized it was a signed/sung musical going in to the show. I did notice that it said "Deaf West Theatre" on the playbill and that there were multiple actors per character, but it just didn’t register with me.

    The first five minutes were sureal. I thought they were signing just the introduction by Mark Twain…then everyone started signing and singing!!! I have to admit it was distracting for about the first fifteen minutes while I adjusted to it, but after that it was amazing. I believe some of the actors may have had speach disorders since they had someone just off the center stage singing while they signed while other actors sang and signed simultaneously. The emotion conveyed by facial expressions, body movement, and signing added to the experience tremendously.

    At one point during the show, in the middle of a group song, everyone stopped singing simultaneously and signed the song for about two minutes. The theatre was silent except for moving arms and hands. The feeling probably can’t be described with words, but the message was clear. I felt like I had been given a glimpse, superficial though it may have been, into another world.

    Thank you for the excellent post Larry.

  2. At least two of the speaking actors in Scapina were either hearing impaired or deaf. At the end of the show, all the actors identified themselves as either hearing, deaf, hearing impaired, or whatever.

    Several of the hearing actors appeared to sign quite well (not that I could tell), several of the hearing actors couldn’t sign at all.

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