IM this article to a friend!

November 17, 2003

Play shouts volumes about deaf

From: Bridgeton News, NJ - Nov 17, 2003

Staff Writer

VINELAND -- It was seen as an ambitious goal --produce a play focusing on the life and relationships of a main character who is deaf.

The actors at Cumberland County College have embraced this goal and will present the play "Children of a Lesser God" later this month.

The production stars Kathleen Reese, who is deaf, along with students and facility, as well as various members of the community.

Margie Sokoloff, director of the production, said this play, which as been on Broadway and won a Tony award, follows the life and romance of a girl who is deaf.

"She meets a young teacher, who can hear, at a school for the deaf and the two of them later marry," she said. "This play looks at their relationship and the issues that arise when the hearing world meets the non-hearing world."

Cumberland County College student Matthew Hosseini, 20, of Millville, is playing Orin Dennis in the play and he said a majority of the cast had to learn sign language for their roles.

"My character is a hard of hearing character, who speaks through sign," he said. "While I knew a little bit of sign language before I got the part, I had to learn a whole new language and be able to speak and sign at the same time."

While this process was difficult, Hosseini said, he enjoyed learning it and hopes people will take an appreciation and understanding for the hearing impaired away from this performance.

"One important thing my character stresses throughout the play is that deaf people don't need to rely on hearing people to achieve greatness," he said. "I just hope people come to the play and take away the knowledge that there is nothing wrong with the deaf."

Addriana Montalvo, of Vineland, plays the part of Edna Klein, the lawyer for Reese's character, and said she was pleased with the way the cast jumped into their new roles.

"I work as a sign language interpreter," she said. "I thought it was going to be a lot harder for these actors to learn sign language because it is just like trying to learn Spanish or French. But they were all so eager to learn and to communicate with Kathleen."

Jennifer Burgess, of Bridgeton, is stage manager for the production, and said she could not ask for a better cast.

"Everyone here is very positive and very into what they are doing," she said. "I just hope when people see this play, they walk away with a better sense of the deaf culture and realize that it is OK for a person to be different."

Greg Hambleton, director of the fine and performing arts center, said the college picked this play because they wanted students to have an appreciation for diversity.

"We have a history of picking shows that are not usually done by other community theater groups," he said. "The college likes to look at diversity and present the students with issues they don't usually think about."

While the college likes to look at traditional diversity issues, such as race or gender, Hambleton said, they also like to tackle more non-traditional issues as well.

"We try to go further than just the traditional issues," he said. "I hope students gain a better understanding of the deaf and hard of hearing communities and realize that they deal with the same issues as those people who can hear."

The production also stars Paul Jost of Vineland, Richard Curcio of Hammonton, Lea Weiner of Millville and Mia Gnottola of Atlantic City.

Julianna Woodard, a CCC student, is assistant stage manager.

The play opens Friday at 8 p.m. at the Frank Guaracini Jr. Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Two other performances are also planned, one on Saturday at 8 p.m. and another Sunday at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and those under 18, and can be purchased by calling (856) 692-TIXX.

American Sign Language interpretations will be available at all performances.

Copyright 2003 Bridgeton News.