LOS ANGELES -- A circus adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet will be the next production of the Deaf West Theatre company. Set in the 1920s, this unique approach to a timeless tragedy tells the story of a tightrope walker named Romeo, who is deaf, and a mime named Juliet, who is hearing.
Romeo & Juliet: Circus Verona is adapted and directed by Elina deSantos. It will open April 17 at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and run through May 17. The play features a multicultural cast of both deaf and hearing actors and is performed in American Sign Language, with voice interpretation and projected subtitles.
"Though Deaf West Theatre has been stretching theatrical boundaries for the past seven years, this is the first time the company has attempted the monumental challenge of performing a Shakespearean play," said a company spokesperson.
Producing for Deaf West is artistic director Ed Waterstreet.
"American Sign language (ASL) is a foreign language," Waterstreet said. "It's closer grammatically and syntactically to Greek than English. In translating Shakespeare, we have to go through a multi-step process; first we translate the Elizabethan text into modern American-English and then determine the conceptual equivalent in ASL. It's a collaborative effort between the ASL translators (three top scholars in the field), the director and the actors, whose artistic choices help ascertain the selection of the signs. And that's just the beginning." Deaf West Theatre company was founded in 1991 as the first professional resident Sign Language Theatre in the western half of the U.S. to improve and enrich the cultural lives of the 2 million deaf and hard of hearing individuals who reside in the Los Angeles area. Deaf West productions, actors and directors have won over 30 entertainment industry awards for artistic merit.
Performances are Thu. and Fri. at 8 PM, Sat. at 2 PM and 8 PM and Sun. at 2 PM at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. For tickets, $12-$20, call (213) 660-4673 or TDD (213) 660-8826.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent