Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dreamers are at it again with a new production!

Everyone who is anyone will be at the Weinstein Jewish Community Center on Sunday, April 30 at 6:00 PM to see one of Richmond’s most innovative and interesting theatre troupes going to work to make the performing arts more accessible to everyone while breaking down those tired stereotypes of disability that exist in the world.

Last year the Dreamers playing to a standing room only audience, brought down the house at the Israel November Auditorium with their renditions of songs past in the Power of Music. This year’s show promises even more entertainment and fun as the Dreamers relate a typical day in high school, called Scrapbook Memories.

Dreamers is a group of dedicated actors who have the opportunity to showcase their abilities while learning and practicing transferable skills. Dreamers makes the performing arts more accessible to everyone while breaking down stereotypes of disabilities to the world at large.

Want to get involved? Dreamers seeks donations and volunteers to help make its program and productions successful. Dreamers is sponsored by VSA arts Virginia and the Weinstein Jewish Community Center.

Where? Weinstein JCC, 5403 Monument Ave, Richmond, VA
When? SUnday, April 30, 2006
What time? 6:00 PM

COST? $5.00 in advance; $6.00 at the door

Virginia High School Student Wins Prestigious Award

Jessica Bolden is not a typical high school senior. She is smart, talented, and a model student - but that is not why she’s atypical! The truth is; Jessica actually enjoys talking to her parents! Yes, that’s right. She says that her friends are confused by the fact that she shares her personal thoughts and feelings with her parents.

Jessica Bolden is a High School senior from Sussex, Virginia who was selected to be one of this year’s published authors in the VSA arts online literary journal, Infinite Difference. Her poem, “Category Five”, is a wonderfully fluid lyricism that tells the sad story of Hurricane Katrina's devastation through the eyes of a bird in flight. Jessica has been actively writing poems, short stories, and plays since she was a sophomore. One of her current stories is about a young girl who is dealing with verbally abusive parents. Jessica says that although she has never experienced anything like this, she feels great empathy for the kids who must struggle with it every day. Jessica says, “It’s always good to see something through someone else’s eyes...” I’m impressed! It’s hard enough for a seasoned adult to attempt this feat. It’s a wonder that Jessica has time to write. She stays extremely busy with a minimum of a dozen impressive school activities along with volunteer work at the regional hospital and a home for the elderly. Jessica says that writing is relaxing and she keeps a journal; “keeping a journal is a good idea, you can say things that you wouldn’t say out loud”. At this point she is not considering a career in writing. She doesn’t like deadlines; “Sometimes it takes five minutes and sometimes it takes five days...”. Jessica intends to study medicine and hopefully start a clinic that caters to women’s health needs. She certainly has the compassion and dedication to pursue any goal. Congratulations Jessica! We applaud your unique spirit.

To read Jessica’s poem along with the work of the other chosen authors: - click on Infinite Difference

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: Gallaudet University's Theatre Arts Department and Amaryllis Theatre Company Partner on Shakespeare in American Sign Language

Washington, DC and Philadelphia. Washington, DC’s Gallaudet University, the nation’s most esteemed university for deaf students, and Amaryllis Theatre Company, a professional company in Philadelphia that works with deaf and hearing actors on a regular basis, have partnered this year on a project to translate Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing into American Sign Language and co-produce the play in both cities with students and theatre faculty from Gallaudet and ten professional actors from around the country.

The project began in 2003 when Amaryllis started working on its second ASL Shakespeare production after a critically and popularly successful Twelfth Night, produced in 2001. “This time we wanted very much to open the project to students from Gallaudet,” explains Mimi Kenney Smith, Producing Artistic Director of Amaryllis and the director of the production. “Unlike hearing students around the world who read Shakespeare in English or in scholarly translations, Deaf students do not have the opportunity to study Shakespeare in their native language. Even though most are bi-lingual, Shakespeare is difficult for all students. When you communicate primarily through your body and eyes instead of through your voice and ears, reading Shakespeare’s complicated poetic language becomes that much more difficult, and except for Twelfth Night, scholarly translations in ASL simply do not exist.”

To change that situation, Amaryllis offered to provide the videotape of its Twelfth Night production as a model and to have two Shakespeare scholars associated with Amaryllis join with two Gallaudet professors in teaching a class on ASL translation at Gallaudet. That class, entitled “Hands on Shakespeare,” gave students from Gallaudet an in-depth look at both Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing and engaged them in actually creating translations of three scenes from Much Ado. Peter Novak from the University of San Francisco, who led a team of Deaf actors in the translation of Twelfth Night and directed the production at Amaryllis, conducted two workshops for the students on ASL translation, helping them to understand how to create rhyme, for example, in a non-sound based language, and how to incorporate mime into traditional ASL. Much Ado’s master translators Aaron Weir Kelstone from Rochester Institute of Technology and Robert De Mayo, an actor/translator from Amaryllis who also worked on Twelfth Night, gave workshops on themes and styles in the current translation. Then Stephen Smith, Assistant Chair of English at La Salle University in Philadelphia, the dramaturg for Much Ado, and Gallaudet professors Willy Conley, Chair of Theatre, and Jennifer Nelson, a Shakespeare scholar in the English Department, led the students in their own translations of selected scenes. The best of the students’ translations will be incorporated into the professional translation and used in the production this spring.

This semester, another class at Gallaudet is participating in the project. Students from Gallaudet professor Angela Farrand’s “Drama Education” class are developing a study guide on CD-rom and paper and a series of workshops for elementary, middle and high school students from area schools who come to see the production.

The production of Much Ado will be acted in synchronized American Sign Language and spoken English, making the show accessible to all audiences. Director Smith explains an additional perk that comes with this kind of performance: “We would expect the ASL translation to make Shakespeare available to Deaf audiences; that’s the point. But what’s also interesting is that the combination of gesture and spoken English makes Shakespeare’s difficult language far more understandable to hearing audiences. It also creates amazing theatre.” Reviews of Amaryllis’ earlier ASL Shakespeare production confirm Smith’s opinion. A critic for New York’s Backstage, for example, wrote, “This Twelfth Night was most impressive for its clarity; once hearing audiences adjusted to voices coming from other actors, we were swept away by the translation’s mystifying beauty, which played like choreography,” while the Philadelphia Inquirer’s reviewer commented, “The lines are spoken with feeling and expressiveness and the acting is so vivid that the characters and scenes come immediately to life.”

Much Ado runs for eleven performances at Gallaudet’s Elstad Auditorium. The show previews on Thursday, April 20 at 8pm, opens Friday, April 21 at 7pm and runs on Saturday, April 22, Thursday, Friday and Saturday April 27 through 29 at 8pm and Sunday, April 23 and 30 at 2pm. Student matinees are scheduled for Saturday, April 22 at 2pm and Thursday and Friday, April 27 and 28 at 10am. Post-show workshops are available after the two matinee performances. Ticket Prices: full-time Gallaudet University students receive one free ticket; $12 for non-Gallaudet students and groups of 10 people or more; $15 for Gallaudet faculty/ staff/alums and senior citizens 65 years and older; $20 for general public.

Tickets are available through Groups should contact Patrick Doran at 215-717-2173 or through e-mail at All performances are accessible to persons with disabilities, including wheelchair seating, assistive listening, audio description and Braille and large print programs.

Amaryllis Theatre Company is the professional theatrical producing arm of VSA arts of Pennsylvania. VSA arts, founded in 1974 by Jean Kennedy Smith, works through affiliates throughout the U.S. and in 60 countries to make sure that people with disabilities can learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. VSA arts is an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

For more information or details please visit :

CALL FOR ENTRIES: Poetry Program Deadline April 28

n April, the Arlington Arts Center launched its bilingual poetry mentoring program: In Two Tongues/En dos lenguas.

The program offers emerging poets who reside in the Mid-Atlantic states the chance to:

1) Have their work published in George Mason University's bilingual journal

Hispanic Culture Review;

2) Appear in poetry readings with established poets at the Arlington Arts Center;

3) Participate in poetry master classes;

4) Have their work published in the Arlington Arts Center's