DER Documentary

Gesture Performance: Dealing with Disability, Working With the Hearing Impaired

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by Evelina Devisheva and Andrey Stankevich
color, 37 min, 2000

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Deaf youth talk about some of the painful experiences they had as Russian children in an environment where they were ostracized and not understood. They are speaking from their current perspective as student actors and actresses in the very special Theatre School for the Deaf in Moscow. The relationship between the students, with their family and friends and their professors at the school is thoroughly explored. Prof. Semakov notes " working with the deaf, and any theatre work involving mime and gesture requires a lot of focus on physical expressiveness. The language is made of gestures, it's a very image-rich language. It involves a selection, a search for new gestures to convey ideas and words."

We see the students at rehearsals and get to know them individually. In the end Sveta tells us "I want to enter the Director's Course and collect an ensemble of deaf actors. My mother suggests heading abroad and working in the theatre there. I'm not sure. We'll see..." It is apparent that the methods used here have assisted these hearing impaired youth to find a new sense of themselves and given them confidence to express complex feelings and ideas. As a result of their commitment and work in the theater, their world view has expanded with opportunities for a successful future.

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts