Adams State College ASL instructor connects to theater

(09-28-2009)

The word connection can define a relationship between two people, but when that same thought is expressed with American Sign Language its meaning takes on much more significance - meaning a person retains their individuality while developing a close relationship with another. For the hearing public, the Adams State College Theater Department's production of "Children of a Lesser God" is a chance to glimpse into the deaf world.

When director Dr. John Taylor, professor of theater, approached Peggy Filer, Adams State ASL instructor and deaf awareness consultant, about the idea of producing "Children of a Lesser God" he said she was very excited. Filer said, "most people would say they were speechless - I was signless. It was a dream come true, for years I've wanted to see something like this happen."

Filer worked with the actors in the play, the two leads played by Brittany Chowning and David Trudeau, as well as the actors Jacob Sorling and Amanda Lovitt, whose characters are hard of hearing. She taught all of them ASL. She said it was a huge project as it generally takes two years to be good at ASL. "Brittany is a star in my eyes. She is fantastic. She fits the role of a deaf woman."

According to Filer the actors use the correct syntax and grammar when signing. She said David had only one month to learn and he worked very hard and impressed her. "Jacob and Amanda are perfect and I've had so much fun at rehearsals." It's not just the actors who have impacted Filer in a positive manner. She is grateful for Taylor and said he has "enthusiasm that bubbles over." She appreciates the poster design, crediting Jim Willis, adjunct professor theater, for the design. "I will be at every show, cheering them on."

The lead character Sarah Norman was born deaf and struggles to maintain her individuality. In the later part of the second act, Norman's character has written a speech trying to express her emotions and thoughts on being a deaf woman. "When Sarah talks about herself, that is exactly how I feel - it gives me goosebumps, are you describing me."

Generally, Filer does not bother to attend many events, there is seldom an ASL interpreter to communicate for the deaf. "The San Luis Valley deaf community is very excited for this event, it may never happen again. Everyone should take advantage and enjoy it."

In October, Taylor has arranged for the National Theater of the Deaf to come to Adams State and conduct workshops and performance. Filer said that usually only happens in big cities. She is grateful for the Adams State Associated Students and Faculty financial support of the endeavor. "The National Theater of the Deaf coming is the encore. It is all in my language."

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By Linda Relyea