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Raves for ‘Cyrano’ in its sign-language adaptation

CynthiaCitronBy Cynthia Citron
San Diego Jewish World

LOS ANGELES– I can’t rave enough to adequately convey my excitement and admiration for the new adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac that opened this week at the Fountain Theatre.

Written by Stephen Sachs and directed by Simon Levy, this brilliant Cyrano is performed by the extraordinary actors of the Deaf West Theatre.

I have long been convinced that once you had seen Jose Ferrer in the role, you had no reason to see it done by anyone else.  Ferrer was the definitive Cyrano; he won a Tony for his performance on Broadway and an Oscar for the film.  As far as I was concerned, they might as well just hang up the sword and retire the white plume.

Until Troy Kotsur.

Kotsur, who renders the role of Cyrano in American Sign Language, is as articulate with his hands as Ferrer was with Edmond Rostand’s beautiful words.  His hands dance while his face expresses his pain—the pain of being unique and alone.

As in the original, the plot deals with Cyrano’s unspoken passion for Roxanne (here called Roxy and portrayed by Erinn Annova), and his efforts to help another man win her love.  In this case, the other man is not the soldier Christian, but Cyrano’s brother Chris (Paul Raci), an insensitive clod who plays in a rock band.

In Sachs’ adaptation, the setting is the present rather than the 17th century, and the messages that Cyrano composes for Chris are delivered by smart phones and e-mail and transported on eight computer screens strung across the stage.

Rather than a large nose, Kotsur’s “handicap” in this version is his deafness, and Sachs has adapted the whole play around this conceit.  All the wonderful soliloquys are transmogrified to deal with deafness, rather than the nose that Cyrano was so distressed about.  For instance, when a fellow patron in Roberta’s Café, where much of the play is set, insults him crudely about his deafness he delivers a series of bon mots that the man might have said instead, had he any brains or wit.  Sample question: “If a deaf man loses one of his fingers, does he develop a stutter?”

The lines that Sachs puts in Cyrano’s mouth for this speech are even more clever and witty than Rostand’s.  And anyone familiar with the original play will also relish the swordfight (here a fist-fight) in which Cyrano composes a poem while he fights.  Or the “No, thank you” speech in which Cyrano tells his friend (Bob Hiltermann) why he prefers to be a loner rather than become a member of the deaf “community.”

Although Kotsur dominates the action (he never leaves the stage), he is surrounded by an ensemble (six deaf members out of 13) that is as perfect as he is.  Whether dramatically voicing the words that the others are signing, or “speaking” the words with their expressive hands, the players are thrilling to watch, and under Simon Levy’s deft direction, Jeff McLaughlin’s clever set design, and Jeremy Pivnick’s creative lighting design, the play emerges as a poignant, inventive, riotously funny, and marvelously satisfying masterpiece.

This world premiere of Cyrano will run Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 through June 10th at The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., in Los Angeles.  Call (323) 663-1525 or visit www.FountainTheatre.com for reservations.

Source: http://www.sdjewishworld.com/2012/04/29/raves-for-cyrano-in-its-sign-language-adaptation/

Synagogue Offers Sign Language Classes - Manhattan

Town_VillageTown & Village (T&V) Synagogue in New York City is offering 6-session American Sign Language (ASL) 1 "Mini-Course".

Schedule: 7:30PM - 9PM on the following dates:

* Tuesday, May 15th
* Monday, May 21st
* Tuesday, May 29th
* Sunday, June 10th
* Monday, June 18th
* Monday, June 25th

Town & Village (T&V) Synagogue Social Hall
334 East 14th Street,
between 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan

For information and to register:

*  Enroll via PayPal to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , specify "ASL 1 Mini-Course"
* T&V Members may use Chaverware
* Send check payable to "Town & Village Synagogue", money order or bring cash to:

Town & Village Synagogue
334 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
Attn: Julie Baber/ASL 1 Mini-Course

Registrations are first-come, first-served. For additional information, please contact Bram Weiser at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (212) 677-0368 Voice. 

Source: Bram Weiser

Jewish Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Awareness Shabbat - White Plains, NY

TempleIsraelCenterIn conjunction with National Jewish Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, Temple Israel Center of White Plains is hosting interpreted service.

280 Old Mamaroneck Rd
White Plains, NY 10605

Interpreted service begins 9:30am.

Arrive by 10:45am for Special Sermon.

Services end around noon followed by a buffet lunch and then a dessert reception a few blocks away

Info: http://www.jdrc.org/JDRCMay5.pdf

Standing with the Deaf

AlexisKasharStandingPosted on April 25, 2012
Jewish Women International

By Alexis Kashar, activist attorney for the deaf and hard of hearing community, public policy chair for the National Association for the Deaf, president of the  Jewish Deaf Resource Center (JDRC), and 2011 JWI Woman to Watch.

This year, for the first time in my family’s history, my sister led the Seder for all 11 of us: 5 children and 6 adults.

This may not seem remarkable to you, and you might ask, “so?” So, at this Seder, we had both hearing and deaf people around the table, and it was delivered bilingually in both American Sign Language and English. Even more remarkable, we were all participating as new members of the wider Jewish community, despite being Jews since birth for our family’s entire history.

Photo: Alexis Kashar signing her 'Pearl of Wisdom' at JWI's 2011 Women to Watch event.
Photo by MBK & Associates

Why did this happen?  Because three generations of family members could not gain access to the wider Jewish community; three generations of our family include Jews who are or were deaf. When someone in a family is denied access to the community, the entire family cannot be fully integrated.  For instance, in my personal situation, I would not be fulfilling my duties as a mother if I turned my own children over to the Jewish community without full access of my own.

The doors to the Jewish community are being pried open. We are now returning home. The stumbling blocks are being hammered away by a very special group of Jewish people: the Jewish Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Resource Center (JDRC) and all its partners in the wider Jewish community. With all that JDRC is doing, synagogues, community centers, and organizations that serve the Jewish community are beginning to realize that we must become a more inclusive community.

One of JDRC’s efforts to promote a more inclusive Jewish community is the establishment of a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Shabbat which will take places this year on May 5th. The Torah portion read on this very Shabbat commands that we do just that. On May 5th, we read in Parshat Kedoshim, which commands, “do not insult the deaf…”  This Torah portion commands that we be a holy people and one of the ways is how we treat one another. On this day, we ask all rabbis across denominations to devote their sermons to this specific commandment about the deaf. What better way to become a more inclusive community than to learn about one another on Shabbat? We hope you and your congregation will join us on May 5th. We know as women that change is not what is heard but what begins in the heart.

Source: http://jewishwomeninternational.wordpress.com/2012/04/25/1937/


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