How Joshua Jackson Learned Signed English for Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God

Broadway News   How Joshua Jackson Learned Signed English for Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God
 
The actor stops by Kelly & Ryan to discuss the massive learning curve for his Main Stem debut.

Joshua Jackson started his week off with Kelly Rippa and Ryan Seacrest on the April 9 episode of LIVE with Kelly & Ryan, ahead of the opening of his Broadway show, Children of a Lesser God, on April 11.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning play by Mark Medoff debuted in 1979 and now enjoys its first revival, thanks to director Kenny Leon and Jackson. Jackson plays James Leeds, a speech teacher at a school for the Deaf who falls in love with Sarah (Lauren Ridloff), a Deaf woman who is supposed to learn to speak with her voice.

Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff in <i>Children of a Lesser God</i> at Berkshire Theatre Group
Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff in Children of a Lesser God at Berkshire Theatre Group Matthew Murphy

“I had to learn Signed English. There are two different languages that get used by Deaf people. I learned Signed English which is our language just translated into signs, and then there’s ASL which is what Deaf people use for Deaf people, which is much more complicated,” Jackson explained.

Read: STAGE DIRECTIONS: KENNY LEON TALKS CASTING CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD AND MAKING IMPACTFUL THEATRE

Jackson gave himself about four months before the out-of-town run at Berkshire Theater Group to start learning the language—that was about a year ago. Yet for his role in the show, Jackson communicates in spoken English and Signed English at the same time, a discipline known as sim-coming. “That is actually the hardest part because it turns out you’re actually using two different parts of your brain,” he says.
If that weren’t enough, Jackson says the production is heavy on the emotional lifting, too. But, he shares that with Ridloff, who is also making her Broadway debut (and made her stage debut with the Berkshire engagement). “Of the many things that are phenomenal about her, she is not a professional actress,” says Jackson. “She’s out there and exposed in every single way.” To hear the story of how Ridloff was cast and more, watch the full video above.

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