SALT LAKE CITY: Back in the summer of 2020, the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Sunshine 2.0 partnered for the first National Deaf High School Theatre Festival, an educational theatrical competition for young Deaf actors, that was entirely virtual due to COVID safety protocols. Now, with the added partnership of California’s Deaf West Theatre, the event will have an in-person component for the first time: March 10-13, the festival’s in-person portion will be held at the USDB campus in Salt Lake City, with the virtual elements occurring at the same time.
“Deaf West has always been committed to bridging the gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds, and when we found out the accessibility needs of students were being completely ignored, we knew we needed to help,” David Kurs, Deaf West’s artistic director, said in a statement. “Bringing this festival from completely virtual to a virtual/in-person hybrid experience is no small undertaking, but is vital for our community.”
“We are excited to be partnering with Deaf West and USDB to present this necessary artistic platform for young adults,” Fred Michael Beam, coordinator of Sunshine 2.0, the touring theatre company of NTID, said in a statement. “This national festival will help elevate and amplify young, emerging Deaf talent.”
The festival will give young Deaf performers the chance to perform on a national stage, to refine their skills through competition and feedback, to use American Sign Language (ASL) as a medium for acting, to experience professional theatre in an accessible language, and to socialize with like-minded Deaf peers. This year’s festival will feature students from more than 10 schools throughout the country, with instructors and guest performers including actors Daniel Durant and Natasha Ofili, along with Kurs, comedian Harold Foxx, and administrators of NTID Sunshine 2.0.
Participants can submit entries in one or more categories to be judged by Deaf West and Sunshine 2.0 performers and other Deaf acting professionals. The categories include drama, music, dance, and visual vernacular. The festival will also include performance skills workshops.
Deaf West Theatre strives to engage artists and audiences in unparalleled theatre experiences inspired by Deaf culture and the expressive power of sign language, weaving ASL with spoken English to create a seamless ballet of movement and voice.
The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind has been serving students with sensory impairments throughout Utah for over 100 years, providing services to meet the changing needs of students and families through modern technology and teaching strategies.
Sunshine 2.0 is the professional traveling theatre troupe based at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. The troupe provides performances and activities for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults, as well as educational topics pertaining to the Deaf experience.
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