Gallaudet University Press

5:11 Friday, November 21, 2003

Unity in Diversity

Two Cultures Join Together to Produce Their West Side Story

When the classic American musical West Side Story was staged in 1957, its creators reshaped Romeo and Juliet to feature the love between a Polish American boy born in New York and a girl newly arrived from Puerto Rico—set against the backdrop of clashing street gangs on the city’s west side. Some 40 years later, no one could have imagined that the same model could be effectively portrayed by members of two other cultures—deaf and hearing students.

In Deaf Side Story: Deaf Sharks, Hearing Jets, and a Classic American Musical, author Mark Rigney chronicles the efforts of Diane Brewer, the new drama head at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL, to produce West Side Story, casting deaf and hearing students in all of the parts and challenging them to learn song, sign, and dance. The college hearing students learned to be the Jets, and the deaf students from the nearby Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) became the Sharks. Instead of allowing the play to symbolize any illusory conflict between the Deaf and hearing communities, however, these young players  used it as an opportunity to show how well they could work together, with great effect.

Read the Prologue to learn more about how these two vastly different worlds blended to perform a classic American art form brilliantly together. Order Deaf Side Story today and take advantage of your exclusive subscriber 20% discount.

SHOFAR, a publication of The University of Nebraska, recognized Surviving in Silence: A Deaf Boy in the Holocaust with a listing in its summer 2003 issue. Izrael Zachariah Deutsch, who later changed his name to Harry Imre Dunai, was born in Komjata, Czechoslovakia, in 1934. During World War II, nine-year-old Izrael found himself doubly at risk for being deaf and Jewish. His resolve to survive is apparent in his account of living in the Klauzal Square ghetto of Budapest, where he and other victims had been herded by the Arrow Cross fascists. Surviving in Silence is Eleanor C. Dunai’s revelation of her father’s remarkable ingenuity in surviving the Holocaust and eventually finding his way to America. Read about the struggles and triumphs of Harry Imre Dunai in chapter eight, The Central Ghetto and the Christmas Nightmare,” and order Surviving in Silence now.

Gallaudet University Press Institute, the educational division of Gallaudet University Press, announces the Second International Deaf Academics and Researchers Conference. Scheduled for February 19-21, 2004 in the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University located on the university campus, this seminal conference will bring together the best deaf academics and researchers to discuss common issues, to share experiences in academia and in research, to present current research toward opening the door to potential collaboration and new research partnerships; and to discuss the emerging role of deaf academics and researchers in relation to the Deaf community. Keynote presenters include Dr. Harry G. Lang, Professor, Department of Research at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York, and author of A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell; and Helga Stevens, Director, European Union of the Deaf, and a member of the European Disability Forum’s Commission on the Information Society. For more information on the conference and to register, go to: http://deafacademics.gallaudet.edu/.

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