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11:6 Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Illuminate the Human Drama
through the Prism of Deaf Culture

“I write for the eye,” says author Willy Conley in his introduction to Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays, “always searching for live, mobile, provocative images that would fill and illuminate the entire stage space with the complexities, the pathos, and the humor involved when deaf and hearing cultures merge or collide.” In Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays, twelve of Conley’s pieces feature deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing characters created from the Deaf perspective.

Intrinsic to the value of these vignettes is their variety: they include pieces that are entirely signed, transcribed American Sign Language (ASL), and both monologues and dialogues in English; they range from comic to tragic, tragicomic, and horror; their styles are absurdist, naturalistic, clownish, surrealist, mimed, and theological; the characters are hearing, hard of hearing, deaf, oralist, ASL educated, rural, suburban and urban; and the list goes on. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the drama and passion of a master playwright who, through his perceptions, reveals facets of the Deaf character in all of us.

Kate Snodgrass, artistic director at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre has this to say about Conley: “Willy Conley has an instinctive flair for the theatrical and a consistent ear for dialogue. His plays are at once touching, funny, and unpredictable, which make them all the more human; they are always dramatically riveting.” Aaron Kelstone, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Cultural and Creative Studies at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) in Rochester, New York, notes: “The imaginative works found in this anthology point to a potentially new direction that may begin to pull Deaf audiences back to the traditional face-to-face experiences that theater has to offer. It gives theater an opportunity for regeneration and renewed discovery that may potentially excite both hearing and deaf audiences. With these thoughts in mind, we can explore how Willy Conley’s work provides us with a high degree of promise for leading the way toward the rediscovery of this tradition.”

Order Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays today, and receive a savings of 20% off with your exclusive subscriber discount. When ordering online, type “JUN2009” in the box labeled “use promo code” located next to the “checkout” button. You may also order by mail.


Reference & Research Book News recognized Michele Bishop’s and Sherry L. Hicks’ book Hearing, Mother Father Deaf: Hearing People in Deaf Families: “Bishop and Hicks bring together a group of 10 essays, both research studies and personal stories, about the shared culture of hearing children who grow up in deaf families. Coverage encompasses bimodal bilingualism and language acquisition in adults, grammatical markers, the cultural and linguistic behaviors of hearing children from deaf families, sign and spoken language contact phenomena, societal influences, and issues of self-expression, identity, and experience. Essays were written by scholars of linguistics, psychiatry, and psychology, and authors who are deaf, hearing or children of deaf adults, who are based in the US, Europe, Australia, and Brazil.” The 14th volume in the Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities series, Hearing, Mother Father Deaf explores the rich linguistic and cultural characteristics of hearing members of deaf families. Read more in chapter eight, “Exploring Linguistic and Cultural Identity: My Personal Experience,” and order Hearing, Mother Father Deaf.


In It’s Not What You Sign, It’s How You Sign It: Politeness in American Sign Language, author Jack Hoza uses variables in how English speakers and native ASL signers express politeness as a comparison of the two language communities’ styles. The current issue of the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education commends it highly, stating: “Jack Hoza’s book compares the use of politeness strategies in American Sign Language (ASL) and English and is an admirable and ambitious effort to analyze this aspect of language use. The author’s springboard is the common assertion that Deaf people’s use of ASL is more direct (less mitigated) than hearing people’s use of English. The target of analysis is a comparison of requests and rejections among ASL–Deaf interactions, and English–hearing interactions, in the workplace. It’s Not What You Sign, It’s How You Sign It provides an excellent framework for studying this very intriguing topic and reveals some fascinating examples of how people use ASL to negotiate difficult interactions.” The full review is available online. Read more about this engrossing study in chapter eight, “Why It Matters How You Say It,” and order It’s Not What You Sign, It’s How You Sign It here.


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