Russell Harvard Will Star in The Who’s Tommy with American Sign Language | Playbill

News Russell Harvard Will Star in The Who’s Tommy with American Sign Language When Tommy turns around to speak for the first time, it will be in American Sign Language.
Russell Harvard Monica Simoes

Open Circle Theatre, the Washington, DC-area arts organization dedicated to producing professional productions that integrate artists with disabilities, will stage the Tony-nominated rock musical The Who’s Tommy, starring award-winning Tribes and Spring Awakening actor Russell Harvard in the title role. The production will explore “how crime victimization impacts the disability community.”

Harvard, who is Deaf, will play adult Tommy. His character will solely communicate through American Sign Language. According to OCT, “In this performance, audiences can explore with the artists on and off stage what happens when disability becomes more than a metaphor. What happens if, when Tommy turns around to speak for the first time, it’s in American Sign Language?”

Check out Harvard’s “Pinball Wizard” music video using ASL.

In addition, American Sign Language will be incorporated in the show with signing ensemble members who will create characters who happen to communicate in sign or, likewise, singing characters who happen to understand/use sign. Other moments in the show will incorporate real-time captioning. There will also be audio described on demand at every performance for patrons who are blind or have low vision, as well as programs available online and a Braille copy at the theatre.

OCT’s artistic director Suzanne Richard directs the production with choreography by Dance Exchange. Performances run October 27-November 20.

“This is OCT's first production that directly comments on disability, so we wanted to push the conversation and confront common stereotypes,” Richard said in a statement. “The character Tommy and his near catatonic state – ‘that deaf, dumb and blind kid’ - was written as a metaphor for Pete Townshend’s childhood and his struggles to deal with fame in his later life. With Russell Harvard playing Older Tommy and communicating in American Sign Language, I call it the metaphor strikes back!”

Based on the concept album by The Who, Tommy has music and lyrics by Pete Townshend, book by Townshend and Des McAnuff, additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

For tickets, visit Open Circle Theatre performs at The Silver Spring Black Box Theatre, located at 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD.

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