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October 26, 2003

‘Honey in the Rock’ coming soon

From: Cumberland Times News, MD - Oct 26, 2003

Heath E. Combs
Times-News Staffwriter

ROMNEY — Does a deaf person experience a play the same way a person who can hear does?

West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney is proving that exposure to the performing arts need not be limited by sight or sound.

Theatre West Virginia's presentation of "Honey in the Rock" will be held at the schools Nov. 3 as a dinner theater. The play details the story of West Virginia's birth during the Civil War.

The play will be shown to students earlier that day. For three years, students have experienced Theatre West Virginia plays through shadow interpretation, a process where sign language is used to interpret dialogue.

Teachers act as shadow interpreters for each actor in the play, according to library aide Shirley Davy, who helped to arrange for shadowing at the school. Shadows dress in black, following individual actors on stage, signing for their voices, she said.

"This will be the ninth year that we have had Theatre West Virginia of Beckley come to our school, and they were so professional when we first had them come," said Davy.

Only one interpreter stood on the side of the stage during the first play, "Cyrano De Bergerac."

"It was very hard for them to follow but they understood the story line after teachers explained it to them," Davy said.

After four years of performances, the school staff decided students would benefit more from interpreters following individual actors. During the fifth year, shadow interpretation began. With Davy signing for them, students Carolyn Rockaw and Mindy Spencer explained how shadow interpreting helped them understand the plays better.

"I didn't know who was who, I didn't understand the meaning of the play," said Rockaw.

"I had to watch the action but I didn't know what they were saying."

Spencer said stationary interpreters positioned to the left or right of the stage would made her dizzy.

"It's like watching movies before captioned films," said Spencer.

"That's why deaf people don't go to theaters; they're not closed captioned. They don't understand."

Pierre Sevigny, who teaches cabinet making and is also deaf, said the interpreters make a significant difference.

"I don't have to shift my eyes to know who the character is," said Sevigny.

This year, teachers training for the shadow performance traveled to Beckley for two days.

Marina Hunley, artistic director for Theatre West Virginia, said shadow interpretation has a minimal effect on actor mobility during the play.

She said performing at the school is as fulfilling for her group as for the students.

"They do workshops with the kids, meet the students and stay for a couple days. I think they really enjoy the performances; it really adds to the whole art," said Hunley.

The historic aspect of "Honey and the Rock" has helped influenced social studies teacher Bill Kesler's curriculum as well.

"I think the best part is, it has to do with West Virginia history, and it's interesting and fits in with classes most of the time," said Kesler.

The play also serves as a cultural event for students from rural areas who might not otherwise experience theater, Davy said.

The Nov. 3 performance is open to the public. Tickets are $10 for dinner and the play and $5 for door tickets. Dinner begins at 6 p.m. at the Seaton Hall Dining Room; the performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased by calling (304) 822-4899 or (304) 822-4861.

Copyright © 2003 Cumberland Times-News