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Deaf Crows Headed To The Sound Off Festival

VIDEO: Deaf News - A group of talented Deaf Regina high school students will soon be taking their show on the road to Edmonton Sound Off Festival.

REGINA, SK -- After two, sold-out performances this summer of the one-act play Deaf Crows by the Thom Collegiate students, they were inundated with requests to do other shows. Teacher Joanne Weber said most were turned down because they’re simply not set up to tour. But they couldn’t pass up the invitation to perform next month at the Sound Off Deaf Theatre Festival in Edmonton. A first for Canada, the festival will showcase the work of Deaf playwrights and actors, which presents a unique educational benefit for the students, said Weber.

“These kids will have a chance to be part of a vibrant Deaf community, if only for about three days,” she said, explaining such opportunities are lacking in a small community like Regina.

Fundraising events by the students’ parents combined with a highly successful GoFundMe campaign to generate the money to cover travel expenses for the group of 17, including students and chaperones. They perform Feb. 17, 18, and 19 in Edmonton.

Weber calls the outpouring of support “amazing,” with contributions even coming in from theatre companies from in and outside the province. Momentum grew when a U.S.-based sign language news service did a feature story on the group.

Last year the students at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at Thom worked with artist-in-residence Chrystene Ells and Berny Hi, a Regina filmmaker, to create visual art, write a script and develop acting skills. Wearing crow masks that they fashioned, the students shared their experiences and challenges growing up in a hearing world -- such as being excluded during games like telephone and hide and seek or struggling to be understood by classmates. The actors signed their lines, and a storyteller interpreted for the hearing audience, except for one part so hearing people might appreciate the deaf experience of seeing but not necessarily comprehending what’s going on.

The original plan was for one Regina show, but when it sold out, a second was added.

Weber, who is herself Deaf, is surprised how Deaf Crows took off. “I have basically toiled in obscurity all these years. And it’s weird to get all this spotlight on the performance. It seemed to have touched some kind of a raw nerve … It’s so interesting because at the same time we have the human rights commission investigating complaints about how poor these deaf people are served in this province.”

In written surveys, audience members called Deaf Crows “inspiring,” “captivating,” “thought provoking” and “powerful.”

She said the students and their parents saw the benefits. “It’s really amazing how those kids have been transformed,” said Weber. “They’ve really come alive,” she added, explaining how they’ve gone from feeling isolated to working together in a community.

“For the first time, their experiences were valued and recognized.”

In a video prepared for the fundraising campaign, student Fatima Nafisa, signs, “I don’t want Deaf Crows to be over.”

Now that they’re headed to Edmonton, the students are back in rehearsals, re-learning lines, and sorting out how they’re going to re-create the same magic in a theatre far different from Regina’s Artesian.

The students are also working on a visual art installation planned for the Dunlop Gallery in October. And the success of Deaf Crows has also led to the creation of a non-profit theatre group (the Deaf Crows Collective) that’s looking to develop more pieces.

In the fundraising campaign video, student Alex Bristow, signs: “All people want the same thing -- to be equal, strong and feel like they are supported.”

SOURCE - Regina Leader-Post

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Deaf Crows Headed To The Sound Off Festival

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