IM this article to a friend!

January 30, 2004

Local girl uses hobby to speak to the deaf

From: Odessa American, TX - Jan 30, 2004

If you go...
What: 'The Miracle Worker,' a Kaleidoscope Company
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 5, 6 and 7 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 8
Where: Permian Playhouse, 310 W. 42nd St.
Tickets: $7 for adults, $5 for children; available at the playhouse
For information: Call 550-5456

By Ginger Pope
Odessa American

One of the lead roles in an upcoming Permian Playhouse play will not be center stage, but to the side. The Permian Playhouse Kaleidoscope Company production of the "The Miracle Worker," a story of how sign language allowed the blind and deaf Helen Keller to communicate with the world, will be signed by eighth-grader DeAnna Donovan.
The signing will enable deaf and hearing-impaired viewers to understand what the young actors are saying.
Keller became deaf and blind in 1880 when, at 19 months old, she was struck with meningitis.
The play, which runs from Feb. 5 through Feb. 8, portrays how sign language teacher Anne Sullivan opened up the world to Keller.
The drama is built around the connection between Keller, and her teacher, Sullivan. It was first a vaudeville act, then later made into a documentary. In 1959, it was staged as a Broadway play and later produced as a film.
Donovan, a 14-year-old Ector Junior High student, will sign the play while actors perform the scenes. Donovan will have a script to refer to, but she said much of her signing for the play will be from what she hears the actors speak.
Donovan realizes that by signing the play she is providing a service to the deaf and hearing impaired.
"I think it's really cool that I can let them know what's going on around them," she said.
Having seen the "Miracle Worker" last year at school, Donovan said it was "pretty intense."
Donovan said she was asked to sign the play because she has friends who are in the Kaleidoscope Company, which consists of children ages 12 to 17. She has already been to a few play rehearsals to practice signing while the actors go through their lines.
Donovan first learned sign language while singing songs as a fifth-grader at St. John's Episcopal School.
"I thought it was really cool, and I bought a few books," she said. "I took a class at OC in October and that helped."
Odessa College offers sign language courses in the school's continuing education program.
"I don't know every word, but enough," Donovan said.
The 14-year-old says she isn't sure what she wants to be when she grows up, but she plans to continue to learn sign language.
"Miracle Worker" Director Laura Bond said this is the first time a Kaleidoscope production has incorporated sign language with a play. Because of the growing interest in assisting the hearing impaired, the Permian Playhouse is working to acquire hearing instruments that can be worn during shows, Bond said Wednesday.
Brenda Barragan with the Regional Day School for the Deaf said she was pleased to learn Donovan will be signing the play.
"I think it's great. Our kids, as far as entertainment, are limited to captioning," Barragan said. "This really opens up the world to them."
Barragan is the parent-infant adviser for the regional day school and has more than 20 years of experience working with deaf or hearing-impaired children.
People with hearing disabilities often rely on visual aid to help them understand what is going on around them, she said. In a play if the actor's mouth is not visible, then it is more difficult to understand what the conversation is. Even if a person's mouth is visible, reading lips is not always an acquired ability, Barragan said.
Barragan said attending a play and being able to understand what is happening would enrich the lives of the children she works with.
"It's experiences that our students are lacking, and it's experiences that help in learning," she said.
Once performances are complete at the Permian Playhouse, the youths will take the show on the road to Eastern New Mexico University for DramaFest the last weekend of February. Additionally, the show will be performed in San Antonio at the Texas Nonprofit Theater Association Youth Conference in June. Donovan will travel with the group.

Copyright © 1999-2004 Odessa American. All rights reserved.