I always knew that I wanted to work with a Deaf playwright and to have music composed for SIGN & SING that would be inspired by a renowned Deaf perspective. After reading his poetry and play anthologies, I contacted Willy Conley, Deaf American playwright and theater professor at Gallaudet University. What began as a simple inquiry and a desire to secure performance rights became a year-long collaboration with both Conley and Gallaudet University students.
SIGN & SING has commissioned and will be presenting Conley's work, The Universal Drum, with classical music. The work is about the universality of drums in both Deaf and Hearing worlds, so the work will feature Deaf actors, singers, and percussionists. We will be presenting a performance workshop of our progress on Saturday, January 13, 2018 in New York! More information about the first performance can be found here.
This fall, Conley taught "Sign Language Translation for the Stage," and The Universal Drum was the class's midterm assignment. Lucia Cavalier, Gideon Firl, Jacinda Baldwin-Gomez, Carrie Suggs, Trent Harper, Chuck Kalu, Thandiwe Dunn, and Angela Reel all wrote beautiful interpretations of Conley's poem, under his guidance. Thank you for your hard work!
As Conley wrote in the m midterm assignment, "I really like the idea of live singing and drumming accompanying the ASL expression of my poem. The main thing that would be important to me for Sign and Sing to produce this would be that the piece be visual, ASL-centric (not ASL following the singing but vice-versa), and is Deaf-audience- friendly."
The music composition process has begun. SIGN & SING is working with composer Brad Balliett, and we have already begun planning the layout of the piece, the staging, and an audience engagement component. More to come in January!