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March 28, 2003

'Grease' on stage in sign language

From: The Argus, CA - Mar 28, 2003

California School for the Deaf to present musical favorite tonight
By Catlin Driscoll, STAFF WRITER
FREMONT -- The California School for the Deaf brings a new meaning to the idea of a musical tonight when students kick off their production of "Grease -- The Deaf Way Musical" in American Sign Language.

There also will be two performances Saturday. Already, more than two-thirds of the tickets have been sold.

Since everyone in the audience may not be able to sign, it will be voice-interpreted for the hearing members of the audience -- with a translator spea-king in English.

Student actors have the added challenge of translating the musical's lyrics from written English into ASL -- which has a different syntax and grammar -- without losing the concept, said Celia May Baldwin, the play's producer and the dean of schools.

"We are trying to practice singing without words," Baldwin wrote in an e-mail. "By this, I mean we will just provide the musical background for the audience for each song. The goal is for them to actually see the music through their eyes, not their ears."

Participation is volunteer-based since the school doesn't have a drama department, Bald- win said. Plays -- which are put on each spring -- also are age-appropriate since the school is a kindergarten-through-12th-grade residential program, where students are housed on campus and go home on weekends. Students and adult coordinators began working in mid-January to prepare for the performance.

Several different classes have been working to bring the show alive. Volunteers sewed costumes, searched flea markets and 1950s salvage stores and will help pass out program books during the performances.

"The best part about working on this project is to take our students back to the 1950s," Baldwin said. "We had to show them pictures of how they dressed (then) and had to invite alumni over to instill some old rules and habits of their times."

Construction and technology teacher Ron Rhodes' classes have been busy creating props for the event -- including colorfully painted plywood representations of 1950s cars.

"Having the school play is vital, as it affords many opportunities for our students to excel -- from woodworking to acting," Baldwin wrote.

To buy tickets, visit www- or pick them up at the school's outreach division. For more information, call (510) 794-3707.

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