IM this article to a friend!

June 5, 2003

National Theatre of the Deaf Says Goodbye to Cherished Artist, Mike Lamitola

From: National Theatre of the Deaf (Press Release) - Jun 5, 2003

860-724-5179 EXT. 3015


Hartford, CT- Mike Lamitola – actor, teacher, playwright, storyteller and Artistic Director of the National Theater of the Deaf died of cancer on Tuesday, May 27th at the age of 48.

Mike's absence will be deeply felt at NTD because of his many contributions to its artistry during its 36-year history. Mike began his work as an actor with the company in 1980 after receiving a degree in social work from the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Equally at home with comedy and drama, Mike created many unforgettable performances during his 17 years with the company. These include Neverfere, the horse with a great deal to say in PARZIVAL: From the Horses's Mouth; the fearsome Long John Silver in Treasure Island; to the loving father and husband in All The Way Home.

Mike's work is well known nationally and internationally. He has presented workshops and performances in 49 states of the U.S. and in countries throughout the world including China, Japan, South Africa, Sweden and many parts of Europe. Mike helped establish deaf theater companies in India, Iceland and Mexico. Mike also authored and performed a one-man biographical piece entitled A Journey with Mike L that shared with audiences his own unique and intriguing view of the world.

Mike particularly loved his work with young actors as a teacher and director. He spent 14 years with the Youth Summer Program at Gallaudet University. He was a teaching artist for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

In 2000, Mike returned to the National Theater of the Deaf as Artistic Director. Under Mike's guidance, NTD produced "A Childs Christmas in Wales", "The Curse of Sleepy Hollow", a collaborative production of "Beethoven By Heart" with Cincinnati Children's Theater; the current touring production of "Oh Figaro" as well as several very popular Little Theater of the Deaf programs. Mike was most proud of the newly developed NTD Deaf Culture Series that began last season with a production of "Deaf Peddler" written by Mike.

Mike was a theater professional in the truest sense of the word. He knew the power of theater to transform. It had transformed his life as a deaf man and as a deaf artist. His passion and his dedication was to make theater that creates change. He loved to act and was a visible force on the stage. As a director he had bold visions, and was insightful and generous with actors.

He loved new work, whether he created it himself as a playwright or collaborated with writers to bring it to life. No one who had seen him as a solo performer of "The Seed" would ever forget the humor and humanity he so easily shared. As a teacher he brought light to the eyes of his students, whether sharing the skills of the actor, the power of visual theater or the beauty and strength of his great love of American Sign Language.

Mike was a man committed to equal access for all and he used his talents as a deaf interpreter to achieve this. He worked in the legal system with Mexican immigrants who were being exploited. He was an advocate for deaf students to have equal access to education. Most recently as the Artistic Director of NTD, he worked to present deaf culture and American Sign Language with clarity and power to every audience. Through his efforts, the NTD summer school was revived for the training of young deaf actors and he established a Deaf Culture Series to present the work of deaf artists to the audience at large.

Where ever he worked, whether it was Calcutta, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Stockholm, Washington, D.C. or Hartford Connecticut, Mike carried with him a passion for his work and a joy for life that were infectious. Mike's tenure as Artistic Director of National Theater of the Deaf was short but profound. His talent and commitment will influence our vision and mission through our future years. His words and his laughter will resound in the hearts or everyone he touched.

Mike is survived by his wife Linda, his dog Smoky, his mother Vivian and his deaf sister Donna in Florida, his brother Tony in Oklahoma, his brother Ray in Long Island, NY and his sister Vicki in Utah.

Additionally, he has many loving nieces and nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and a large loving extended family on Linda's side. And throughout this country and throughout the world he has a huge loving circle of friends who laughed with him, cherished him, and will never forget him.

He was our Artistic Manager for such a short time and we will miss having his influence and direction in our future years. His time was cut short, but his vision and impact will continue. We are grateful that Mike has given the National Theatre of the Deaf so much of his time through the years and we reap the benefit of his great talent. He will be missed, but his words and his laughter will still resound in the hearts of everyone he has touched. We are saddened by the loss of this talented and inspiring man, and share our feelings of loss with his family and friends. Our sympathies are extended to those who knew him.

A Memorial Service will be held on Tuesday, June 24 at 2 pm at the John Houseman Theatre in New York City.

NTD has established a memorial fund on behalf of Mike Lamitola to be dedicated to the fund the Deaf Culture Series. Any donations can be sent to the NTD office at 55 Vandyke Ave, Hartford, CT, 06106. For more information, please contact our office at 1-800-300-5179.


Special thanks to Linda Lamitola for her contributions to this release