Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bridging the Deaf and Hearing Communities

            As a creator of fiction, it has always been my goal to take each member of the audience, despite their background or personal perspectives, and bring them into a world that can only be seen through the eyes of the characters I have created.  This has always required me to study the many aspects that form the character and to forget myself as I immerse myself in what will be their environment. 

            In writing the script, Shadow Guardians, I was asked to come up with a number of viable projects that could be produced for the Deaf Community.  The biggest hurdle to overcome was the fact that I am not Deaf, so from the inception it was already an awkward position.  Creativity and imagination can get you pretty far down the road, especially in writing fiction.  However, if you are not near a pool, building an elaborate jump tower is meaningless because all dives lead to street-pizza!

            I have had to deal with a number of situations where I found myself as part of the minority.  The first I can recall was what it was like to be American when stationed in another country.  But no matter what particular combination of characteristics applied to my being in the minority, a few things remained true: no matter the size, that community wants to be acknowledged. Also, each community enjoys when a member of their number does things above and beyond the norm.  None of this excused me from researching the Deaf Community, but it gave me a common ground, a bridge between the Deaf and Hearing Communities from which I could stake my project.

            To be sure, I did not then nor do I now feel that the Deaf Community needs my assistance.  At least, not as much as the Hearing Community does.  I decided I was not going to write a story that was kept in one section of our reality. I would tie as many perspectives into the effort as I could.  As most creations of fiction revolve around three premises (Man vs. Man, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Nature), I thought I would engage the first two.

            “Does the Deaf Community have a hero?” I asked myself and my attendance of several conventions as well as hours of reading and studying turned up several characters, but none that seemed to be truly hinged to the body of people they called themselves representing.  They seemed to be more like window dressing with little or no substance and that was something I was desperate not to repeat.

            The first step was understanding the character was Deaf and what that would mean.  ‘Handicap’, I have learned, is a term that many Deaf people do not like but it is still very prevalent in the Hearing Community.  My hero would have no trouble dealing with members of the Deaf Community, but would they contain themselves to acting simply within those boundaries?  I have yet encounter a condition where two ‘wrongs’ could constitute a ‘right’, so the answer to that question quickly became no.  But that also presented a problem.  Since I was not one for making a hero (just yet) with super-powers, that meant they would have to deal with Hearing characters would try to exploit the fact that out hero is Deaf.  If you have the right equipment, you can see sound waves; I incorporated that into a pair of specially made goggles and now while the character still cannot hear, they can see sound… even sound that the human ear cannot detect. Handicap triumphed!

            The next step was the construction of the back-story of the hero which would go a long in defining how and why they do what they do.  But the most important link for me was bridging the Deaf Community with the  Hearing Community and place them on common ground and have them root for the same hero(es).  This was achieved through the storyline where a second character, a police officer, in struck deaf in the line of duty.  He struggles to prove to himself and his colleagues that he can still do the job.  There is no question he is still a man, but without acknowledging that he is a different man, he fails to try to do things in a different way. The man he is can do a great many things, just now in the same fashion as the man he was.  As he comes to grips with a reality he cannot change, our police officer, with the help of our hero, finds the means to still make a difference in the facets of life he finds worthwhile.  It is not a short process and the audience is exposed to an environment with which they may be completely unfamiliar.  It is through this sort of exposure that all men can understand each other.  It can begin with the bridge between the Deaf and Hearing Communities, but it need not and should not end there.

--G Gaynor

Learning How To Audition

Nobody just “knows” how to audition; nobody’s born with an ‘audition’ gene. Everyone needs help learning how to audition, and I did too.

I started performing when I was 3 – ballet.  It was all part of the ballet school, so it wasn’t like I had to audition for a role in the show.  As it turns out, that was very helpful, because it built a familiarity with being on stage.  That’s one of the key things in learning how to audition – being comfortable.

As the years passed, it grew easier and easier for me to be on stage, but it was still all through dance and through my dance school.  We had ‘mini’ auditions where we were tested out for different sections of the recitals, but it wasn’t really the same thing.

It wasn’t until I was in Jr. High that I really started to learn how to audition.  I had done some minor shows here and there, mostly for people I knew, but wanted to try my hand at ‘real’ theatre. 

The first audition I went to was for ‘Our Town’, and it turned out to be easier than I thought; again, because I was already comfortable on stage.  What I didn’t know, however, was that the monologue I had prepared wasn’t right for me, and wasn’t staged very well.  The director liked how relaxed I was on stage, but told me I wasn’t ready for a lead role.  He suggested I find someone to study with in order to learn how to audition more effectively.  It was the best advice he could have given me.

In later posts, I’ll cover the things I learned about how to audition, and share some tips about presenting oneself as the “total package”. 

With the right tools, learning how to audition is easier than you think!