Cultural Accessibility For The Deaf Essay

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“Theater has been used for both education and entertainment and has often been celebrated as a superior vehicle by which to transmit culture” (Ability). For a long time, the Deaf culture was oppressed, silenced, and ignored. Then along came then along came the National Theater for the Deaf, changing the way we talk about American Sign Language (ASL), and the way we look at members of the Deaf community. Ed Waterstreet, one of the founders of Deaf West Theatre, arrived in Los Angeles in the late 1980s where he was surprised to find an enormous need for cultural accessibility for the 1 million individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing residing in the area. Professional artistic opportunities were few, and almost always stereotypical. Simply put, arts accessibility for the deaf was not a priority in an area that flourished with arts, especially acting. Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, Waterstreet had been touring with the National Theatre for the Deaf (NTD) for 15 years, which is one of the biggest jobs he could get as a deaf actor. He found the whole experience somehow lacking. “NTD 's approach to deaf theater at that time was more concerned with the idea that English was to be the dominant language and enhanced through "beautiful signing,"” (Ability) a philosophy with which Waterstreet did not agree with. He wanted an environment where ASL and deafness could shine, where ASL could have as much range as the spoken word had onstage. He wanted true artistic expression of

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