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Deaf actors workshop to begin, today

Reagan Brooks, left, and Erica Haase, right, and Amber Marchut, deaf studies and deaf education assistant professor, middle, converse in ASL, in the Communications Building, Nov. 19. UP photo by Vy Nguyen
Reagan Brooks, left, and Erica Haase, right, and Amber Marchut, deaf studies and deaf education assistant professor, middle, converse in ASL, in the Communications Building, Nov. 19.UP photo by Vy Nguyen


The department of communication and media will host a workshop on the history of deaf actors and crew in film and cinema, today, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., in 129 Communications Building.

American Sign Language majors, Reagan Brooks and Hannah Poynor, and American Sign Language Advocacy major, Erica Haase, will lead the workshop.

“It is incredibly important to know about the history of deaf representation to be able to see how it can improve,” Brooks said in an email interview.

The student-led workshop is geared towards communication and film majors because it is relevant to their career, she said.

“The three main topics for the workshop include the history of deaf representation in film and cinema, the importance of captioning and why deaf roles must be played by deaf actors,” she said.

Amber Marchut, assistant professor of deaf studies and deaf education, said the workshop will cover deaf stereotypes in cinema, and how they are gradually changing.

“Historically, deaf people in media were portrayed as being infantile, victims, mentally challenged and naïve,” she said. “This was reinforced by the concept that deaf people would experience a better quality of life as a hearing individual.”

Marchut said the deaf community don’t usually hold on to this perspective.

“We perceive ourselves as human beings with a hearing difference — we realize that our lives may be challenging, but not  more than for many other people,” she said. “This is changing in that deaf people are now presented in a more positive way, including Nyle DiMarco and other celebrities, but this brings up a concern of fetishizing deaf people or seeing them as a novelty.”

Brooks said the workshop started as a group assignment from the advocacy services for the deaf and hard of hearing class, taught by Marchut.

“We narrowed it down to focus on film due to the lack of proper representation in film and cinema,” Brooks said. “The biggest historical film that included a deaf main character was played by deaf actress, Marlee Matlin, in ‘Children of a Lesser God’ in 1986.

“Since then, some deaf roles have gone to deaf actors, such as Millicent Simmonds in ‘A Quiet Place’ and CJ Jones in ‘Baby Driver.’”

Marchut said that they will also discuss the idea that deaf roles should be cast with deaf actors instead of hearing actors.

“The first reason is to provide deaf people with employment and career opportunities as many struggle in the media industry,” she said. “The second reason is that a deaf person will act the deaf character with more authenticity than a hearing person.”

Brooks said that most deaf roles are cast with hearing actors.

“When hearing actors play deaf roles, the perspectives of the deaf community are not shown,” she said.

The goal of the workshop is to educate film majors about the importance of proper representation in the deaf community, Brooks said.

“Deaf actors must portray deaf roles because they can relate best to the character,” she said. “They are not acting as a deaf person, as they are acting as the character instead.”

Brooks said the workshop will be beneficial to anyone planning to work in the film industry.

“(They) may work in filmmaking, producing, writing, directing and crew,” she said. “It is important that they are knowledgeable of the importance of casting deaf actors for deaf roles, and how to ensure everyone has language access.”

For more information, call 880-8153.

Story by Vy Nguyen, UP staff writer

Category: News