“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw
It is an inherit human need to want to be acknowledged, to be understood, to be heard. Everyone needs to have a voice. Our society listens to respond instead of listening to understand. We do not take the time to actively engage the people in our lives. We move so quickly that all meaning is lost. This is an issue at the heart of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land.
On stage this weekend, you will see many different forms of communication. Characters will be speaking and singing in English, some will be using American Sign Language, some will even sing in English and sign at the same time. Other performers have developed their own gestural language to help communicate with each other. Just as in life, no two characters have the same style. But if you look closely, you can see which characters are making an effort to meet the others half way.
When I first began thinking about the idea of casting a deaf actress in the role of Beth, I never dreamed the number of people who would jump to action to help make this happen. I had an amazing group of directors in Chicago who were able to help me flesh out the idea completely and learn about the resources I would need to make this entire accessibility venture happen. I am eternally grateful to Carrie Lee Patterson and the Director's Lab Chicago family for helping me figure out where to begin. American School for the Deaf and Source Interpreting have been invaluable resources in helping us not only connect with an amazing actress but our entire ASL team. We are so lucky to have them as a partner in this production.
My most influential partner in this process has been Elena Blue. The more we examined the text, the more we realized The Tender Land is the story of so many families both deaf and hearing. We judge ourselves based on the dreams we fulfill and those that never come to fruition. We all want to feel as if we matter, that our thoughts and ideas are important. Dreams are universal. They do not see race, religion or ability. They only prove that there is promise in each new day.
The past 10 months have been an unbelievable adventure. Our cast and creative team are filled with gracious and loving people who are willing to do or try anything to tell the best version of this story possible. Words cannot express how eye opening this entire experience has been and how much I have loved being a part of every second of it.
Thank you for joining us and supporting what I hope is the beginning of making opera in Connecticut a more accessible and community-driven art form.