Admittedly, I had written about this before class today but in the wake of our conversation about Love Person I cannot resist incorporating some of the common threads. Very recently the revival of Spring Awakening closed on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and was produced by Ken Davenport, Cody Lassen, Hunter Arnold and Deaf West Theatre. To be plain, Spring Awakening is my favorite musical and I was ov
er the moon to hear it was being revived but I couldn’t help but think, what can they possible do to build on the show especially since the original closed much less than a decade ago.
The answer lies the in collaboration with Deaf West Theatre who conceptualized the unique and stunning action that fills this production with the reinvigoration it was begging for. The production not only incorporated but choreographed ASL into the show. The actors ranged from authentically deaf to fully hearing all of which signed continually as the show progressed. What was so inventive was that the deaf actors did not sing and of course could not hear the progression of the music and instead took their cues to sign from extremely complex and intricate signals and choreography from the rest of the cast as their counterpart sang their part in the background. The result being a multifaceted and layered experience furthering the emphasis on the need to communicate.
I encountered this musical as a teenager looking, as most teenagers are, for my voice and a way to articulate effectively my thoughts and feelings. For these reasons such a powerful coming of age story really hit home and to see ASL used as a tool to express the adolescent yearning to communicate was unbelievably refreshing.
This is where our conversation in class today comes in, while I still have the utmost excitement regarding this production I see now that ASL was not entirely respected as a language but rather used as an enhancement tool. While it made something as auditory as a musical accessible to the deaf community it certainly does not take the time to translate properly so much as utilized as an alternate form of choreography. Inventive and effective for certain but that all important distinction between English and ASL that we talked so much about may have been lost in the fray. This is neither here nor there so much as just another perspective on the intricacies of language and how we choose to use it.