Deafness is having a cultural moment. So why are deaf roles still handed to hearing actors?
The current deaf staging of “Spring Awakening” on Broadway demonstrates that non-hearing actors are just as capable as the hearing.
As a deaf actor, I’m always getting the same questions: What it is like to be a deaf actor? Isn’t it hard? How do you do roles if they are not for the deaf?
I tell them I am just an actress. Even though my deafness is a huge part of my identity, I can perform any role a hearing person can, and it matters to me that I receive the same opportunities as my hearing colleagues.
The success of Deaf West’s production of “Spring Awakening” on Broadway is proof that actors of diverse abilities can still create a beautiful show. The cast is a mix of hearing and deaf actors, all of whom use American Sign Language for the entire performance. (The deaf actors are accompanied by the voice actors.) The deaf community has responded strongly to our show, but hearing audiences have been also been touched by the art of our language.