Los Angeles High School of the Arts

Opinion: There needs to be more theatre programs for the deaf community

Hollywood, known as the “Home of U.S Film industry,”  “Opportunities for rising actors,’’ and so many more cliché and sayings that people have about Los Angeles. Aside from other great cities like New York or Chicago with other theatre or art programs, Los Angeles is the place to be. Well, for some people at least.

Spread throughout the Los Angeles area are high school students that are involved in various types of theatre programs. Inner City Arts, Center Theatre Group, and CETA are a few of many programs and organizations that provide students with opportunities to engage in theatre. Theatre is highly encouraged for many high school students, but for deaf students, theatre is an unpopular culture to their community due to the lack of resources and information about the theatre world.

Regina, 14, student at Marlton School of the Deaf responded to her thoughts about theatre, “I’m sorry, I feel crazy because I don’t know answer to your question.”

Theatre has been around since the 5th century B.C., and it has flourished a lot since but not for the deaf community. The first formal theatre production wasn’t performed until 1884 at Gallaudet University, this was the spark of theatre in the deaf community.

Theatre in the deaf community was used to spread awareness about the deaf culture to others, this became known as deaf world theatre. Although the community was encouraged to take in the theatre culture, many students like Regina have no clue on what goes on in the theatre world.

Although Regina has never seen live theatre, she has been exposed to ASL (American Sign Language) films.

“’The Twin Sisters: Hedy vs. Heidi’ is my favorite, I enjoy ASL films, they are my favorite.” she said.

ASL films are really popular in the deaf community, they are also very essential to many students like Regina. They enjoy it because they are able to relate to the stories and are possibly the only source of art entertainment available to them. Regina also really enjoys watching tv series like: “The Flash,” “Arrow, “Supergirl,” and other TV series and movies. “Switched at Birth,” an American drama series that has incorporated American Sign Language into the series, was once one of her favorite show to watch but now that she has learned more about herself she would enjoy watching an action fiction instead.

Arts and theatre are not an everyday thing that students like Regina come across in the deaf community, she says “I hope to see more TV series with ASL and I’m not the one reading subtitles.”

No Limits for Deaf Children, a non-profit organization nationwide is able to provide some opportunities for theatre in the deaf community.

“Every year, No Limits produces a number of productions across the country,” according to No Limits. “Theatre is able to enhance self-esteem, improve speech and communication skills, develop social skills, improves academic skills.”

There are many programs and organizations for hearing in the theatre world, but for the deaf community, it is difficult for students to find a theatre program or even participate in a high school play because of the limited resources.

Regina along with many more students are not getting the same opportunities as hearing high school students in Los Angeles. High school students in the deaf community like Regina are not being able to show their full potential or try new things. The lack of resources they are receiving is creating a barrier for students to develop and improve new skills such as: social interactions, creativity, teamwork and most importantly, they are not being allowed to find their voice to tell their story through theatre.