For my birthday on December 18th, I went to go see SPRING AWAKENING on Broadway. (I have not had time to fully write about in a way that does it justice, but finally found the time to post about it.) I had been looking forward to seeing the show for many months, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I know I don’t usually write about theatre on this blog, but this is an exception, as the musical is a Broadway revival by Deaf West Theatre, featuring both Deaf and hearing actors and integrating both American Sign Language and English.
My boyfriend, Matthew, and I are both Marlee Matlin fans, and so we went to see the show together. Matthew was born deaf and identifies as hard of hearing, as he speaks and hears using a cochlear implant, which he received when he was a little boy. He only knows a little ASL, but he is very interested in deaf history. He is also a screenwriter and graduated from the same program as I am currently attending.
We thoroughly enjoyed the show and were enraptured by the quality of the performances. Marlee Matlin, although she only had a relatively minor role, was phenomenal as usual; I am always blown away by her outstanding use of facial expressions to convey meaning.
Daniel Durant’s performance as the protagonist Moritz was also outstanding, and many critics recognized the quality of his Broadway debut. I know him from his role in ABC Family’s SWITCHED AT BIRTH, and so it was interesting to see him in another mode of expression: the theatre.
The subject matter is very heavy (addressing family dynamics, communication, sexuality, education, suicide, pregnancy, and abortion) but very emotionally compelling (which I love), although we were a bit disappointed that it did not focus more on the deaf history aspect (such as the policy of oralism that flourished after 1880, which prioritized the laborious process of learning to speak and read lips to the detriment of the education of deaf students).
Unfortunately, the show was not open-captioned for those deaf and hard of hearing who are not fluent in ASL, and so it was not easy for Matthew to follow. One of my friends who is also deaf and grew up using Total Communication and is fluent in Sign later told me that it was hard for her to follow the show in parts–there was a lot of simultaneous communication (speaking and signing at the same time), which undermines the grammatical structure of ASL. So, this led me to think that perhaps this is a show really meant for hearing people…Captions would have helped alleviate this problem. Still, it was an amazing show!
After the show, I wanted to try to meet some of the actors, and so my boyfriend said we should go to the stage door. There, we got our playbills signed by many of the actors.
I got to meet Russell Harvard, star of the movie THE HAMMER, and I told him (in Sign!) how much I enjoyed his work in that movie. Later, while we were standing in the cold trying to meet Marlee Matlin (alas, she had slipped away), I got a picture with him (all dressed up to celebrate the December 18th release of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS).
Here is the trailer for THE HAMMER starring Russell Harvard:
The subject matter of the musical is heavy, so to balance it out, I’ll leave you with a hilarious video #withcaptions featuring the cast:
I’m glad that I got to relive the experience through writing this blog post, as I can say with complete honesty that I had the perfect birthday! 😀