Thursday, May 11, 2017

Signs of ­diversity - NOW

Originally published: May 10, 2017

What’s stopping you from going to the theatre?

Deaf actor Dawn Jani Birley’s recent sign-language turn as Horatio in Ravi Jain and Why Not Theatre's production of Prince Hamlet highlighted efforts in the Toronto theatre community to welcome new audiences who might benefit from different kinds of presentations, like ASL-interpreted and dynamic-titled performances for the deaf or “relaxed performances” for people who might be intimidated by strict theatre etiquette.  

“You have to ask the question ‘Who is welcome at your play?’” says Marjorie Chan, artistic director of Cahoots Theatre. The company has put out the Deaf Artists and Theatre Toolkit (DATT), an online collection of practical resources made publicly available in 2016 to help theatre companies produce shows that won’t exclude deaf patrons. 

“The mandate of Cahoots has always been supporting diversity and marginalized voices, but it had almost exclusively been interpreted to mean ‘artists of colour,’” she says. She believes diversity in theatre should mean a lot more.