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October 6, 2002

Entertainment without words

From: Parsippany Daily Record, NJ
Oct. 4, 2002

Deaf actors excite kids in Rockaway
By Matt Manochio, Daily Record

ROCKAWAY -- The 68 special needs students of Park Lake School got a lesson in sign language Wednesday, when the National Theatre of the Deaf paid a visit to perform various skits and stories.

Four players from the Little Theatre of the Deaf, a division of the national theater company based in Hartford, Conn., presented a collection of stories to the youngsters.

Three of the actors, Ruthie Jordan, Claudia Liolios and Ian Sanborn, all of whom are deaf, performed sketches while signing their dialogue. The one nondeaf actor, Jim Holden, translated the sketches vocally to the children.

"There are a lot of ways to teach kids instead of just lecturing," Principal Sheryl Kaufman said, adding that the school gets state grant money every year to pay for similar presentations that teach respect, manners and social behavior.

"We really want to make good citizens in society," Kaufman said.

Park Lake serves multiply disabled and autistic children from preschool age to 21 years old.

For some of the children, being in a crowded room with lots of noise and movement sometimes is overwhelming, but the students quickly became fixed on the four performers in the school gymnasium. They calmly sat, paying attention.

The deaf troupe used several large, colored circles, squares and triangles to make objects such as rockets, caterpillars and flowers, and showed the children how to sign the shapes they were creating.

The actors also improvised and performed short stories, including "The Giving Tree," by children's author Shel Silverstein.

The story is about a boy who befriends an apple tree and learns lessons from it about giving and sharing.

LeTishia Whitney, the theater company's stage manager, said Theatre of the Deaf might teach children good virtues, but its real purpose is to show the audience a good time.

"Basically, if people want us to come, we will," she said. "Really, we're just trying to entertain."

Copyright 2002 Daily Record.