SOUND OFF: A Deaf Theatre Festival
SOUND OFF will be the first Deaf Theatre Festival in Canadian history. Both the UK and the USA have several theatre companies dedicated to Deaf artists and audiences. Canada has none. The primary aim of SOUND OFF is to increase exposure for Deaf artists and audiences in Edmonton. This means engaging both hearing audiences and Deaf audiences. Through engaging hearing audiences, we give them an opportunity to experience true diversity and to see and experience ideas, language and culture of the Deaf community. It will encourage them to think of ability rather than disability when thinking of people whom are Deaf. It will expose them to the rich expressiveness of sign language. For Deaf audiences, it will give them an opportunity to be welcomed to participate within theatre and to be able to understand and enjoy a performance in its entirety. Since surtitles and ASL interpreted theatre performances within Edmonton occur very infrequently, there are not many options for involvement for Deaf audiences. Being able to attend a Deaf theatre festival means full involvement and full participation. The performances will be presented in ASL by the performers, with the addition of interpretation and surtitles where necessary. In addition to being included and welcomed, Deaf audiences see the potential and power of theatre. Workshop West has a history of working with the deaf audiences in Edmonton, but this festival will the first of its kind in Canada. The festival will be held at the ATB Financial Arts Barns between February 9-19th, 2017.
Who Will it Benefit?
Both the Deaf community in Edmonton as well as hearing audiences will benefit from this festival. Workshop West currently has a hearing audience of about 3500 people per year. According to Alberta Association of the Deaf, there are approximately 2,500 deaf persons in Edmonton. In addition, there are 900 individuals who are deaf and who use primarily ASL. We are expecting that at least 500 people will either attend shows or workshops held as part of the festival. Workshop West is working in partnership with Chris Dodd, a nationally renown, Edmonton-based, deafened actor and playwright, who will be coordinating the project. This past season, working with the Lakeland College ASL interpretation training program, Workshop West offered one ASL performance of each of the shows we presented. This was welcomed by the Deaf community, with approx. 150 people coming to see those performances. We are the only English-speaking theatre company in Edmonton to offer this service.