SignStage has a unique mission statement: “To produce educational programs and performances about Deaf Culture that promotes awareness and demonstrates the value of cultural diversity between the Deaf and Hearing communities.”
The Beginning of SignStage
This non-profit, housed in the Cleveland Hearing and Speech Center (CHSC) since 2007, strives to educate the community about diversity issues and deaf awareness by using theater. Originally founded as the Fairmount Theater of the Deaf (FTD), the name changed to Cleveland Signstage Theater (CST) in 2001 and was located in the Cleveland Playhouse. In 2007, the program was absorbed by CHSC and underwent its final name change to the current title, SignStage.
An Education-Based Program
As the organization moved within the CHSC, it went from being a deaf theater to an education-based program using theater as an avenue to learning. Programs such as Performing Deaf Theatre Workshops, Gesture Communication, and “D.E.A.F.” Deaf Awareness Performances are taught in schools and at CHSC to promote Deaf awareness and connect the Deaf and Hearing communities.
Despite this shift, SignStage still puts on one live production per year to raise money for their efforts. Just like any other production, there are open auditions and casting calls for the actors. Word is spread around the deaf community in Northeast Ohio and actors travel for miles to get the chance to be in this special show.
William Morgan, the SignStage Artistic Manager, also serves as the Director and Producer of nearly every production put on by the organization. With a long history of acting, directing, and producing in theaters across the country, William is passionate about connecting with an audience and getting them to engage with the show. “My favorite part is the effect we can have on an audience. You know, I love what I do- it’s the classic saying that you don’t work a day in your life if you love it”, he says.
Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
This year, SignStage is proud to present Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Saturday, October 19th and Sunday, October 20th. This Deaf Theater adaption by SignStage is performed in Spoken English and American Sign Language simultaneously and tells the story of a young deaf boy, Charlie Bucket, and his deaf grandparents on their journey through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Wonka, played by local Timothy Thomas is an eccentric candy manufacturer that develops into an incredible character with an ulterior motive to his tour, changing the life of one child beyond his wildest imagination.
“Hilarious, exciting and nothing like you have ever seen before! Bill Morgan out did himself on casting this talented and diverse group of actors! Come and see this amazing, funny performance in Sign Language with Spoken English Voices.. timed to the acting! This performance will blow your mind, make you laugh, trick your senses, and is accessible to all! I am truly honored to be part of this talented cast and I have learned a lot about Deaf Theatre and have fallen in love with the cast and crew! You do not want to miss it!”Timothy Thomas
The SignStage production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will run at Near West Theater on Saturday, October 19th at 7 PM, and twice more on Sunday, October 20th at 2 PM and 7 PM. To learn more, visit http://nearwesttheatre.org.