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March 28, 2003

School for deaf stages musical

From: San Jose Mercury News, CA - Mar 28, 2003

By T.T. Nhu
Mercury News

The California School for the Deaf is putting on a musical.

That's right. For its annual theatrical production scheduled this weekend, students at the Fremont school are staging ``Grease,'' the Broadway musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.

It's the first time the school has produced a musical. The cast and crew adapted the speaking lines and songs for the deaf and hard-of-hearing actors and actresses.

The performers will sign dialogue and songs in American Sign Language, and nine school staff members and parents offstage will speak the lines for the audience. For the musical numbers, the audience will hear a recording of the original Broadway cast.

The soundtrack is piped through a karaoke system with lyrics flashing on a screen for the audience to follow along. A prompter cues the actors when to deliver their lines.

``It's a challenge working with people who can feel the beat but can't hear the music,'' said Richard Medugno, one of the parents who will be speaking the dialogue. He said he was a little nervous about his first foray into acting. ``It hasn't been done before and there's a possibility it might fall flat and might not work out.''

But the students are confident about the production billed as the Deafway musical.

They have been rehearsing three times a week since January, including attending dance classes in Oakland.

``The goal is for the audience to actually see the music through their eyes, not their ears,'' said Celia May Baldwin, the school's dean and the show's producer.

The California School for the Deaf, which has been based in Fremont since 1980, has 460 students, mostly boarders who return home on weekends.

Drama students weren't the only ones involved in the production. Woodworking classes made the sets and props, and the technology class worked on the electrical components. Posters and programs were made by arts and graphics students.

``Having the school play is vital as it affords many opportunities for our students to excel from woodworking to acting,'' Baldwin said.

The cast warmed up with standing room only performances for hard-of-hearing and deaf students who attend mainstreamed schools throughout Northern California.

All three shows scheduled for this weekend are sold out.

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