When James Caverly was presented with an opportunity to direct a theatrical performance with a cast of hearing and deaf actors, the first thought he had was "finally." Caverly had seen productions where the cast had that mix, but he noticed the directors could hear.
Caverly, who is deaf, was eager for the opportunity. A graduate of Gallaudet University's theater program who lives in Laurel, he has directed shows in the past, but he has never directed a production in which deaf and hearing cast members are on the stage at the same time.
That will change when the Community College of Baltimore County's production of "Romeo and Juliet" premieres March 23. Running through March 27 at the college's Catonsville campus, the production is organized by the college's theater and American Sign Language interpreter preparation programs. The show is part of the theater program's "A Year in Shakespeare" series.
The play, originally written by William Shakespeare in the 16th century, tells the tale of two lovers from families that are enemies of each other. Rachel Grossman, ensemble director at Dog & Pony DC, a Washington, D.C.-based company that creates plays that keep hearing and deaf artists in mind, said productions such as the one at CCBC are not common.
She said it is "brilliant" that the CCBC production is taking place, as it broadens theater groups' horizons as to how to be inclusive to deaf or disabled artists. "They're amazing artists and it's a tremendous amount of learning and new perspective when you're including storytelling from many different people and new perspectives," she said. "There's a real rich, broad and diverse deaf community in the D.C. metro area and a lot of talented artists."
The 15-member cast has four deaf actors, including two CCBC faculty members of the interpreter preparation program.