Imagination Stage brings deaf actors to perform for ESOL, sign language students


Sharon Asro Faber

ESOL and American Sign Language students were invited to watch the Piano Theatre students from Russia perform. Some of the students were even participating in the act.

Aisha Sowe, Associate Editor

Imagination Stage, a theater arts organization, collaborated with ESOL theater teacher Sharon Faber and had students from the Piano Theatre perform a play at Watkins Mill High School on April 16.

The Piano Theatre was founded by Vladimir Chikisnev in 1986 at the Nizhny Novgorod Boarding School for Deaf Children, located about three hours from Moscow, Russia. The performers are current and former students of the school. A few of those students went on to make a living to perform on stage.

“I thought Watkins Mill was a great match… I thought the students are very talented here,” said Joanne Lamparter, Director of Education for Imagination Stage. The Piano Theatre specializes in clowning and being able to communicate freely with the audience. Because the performers are deaf, they tell stories by using their bodies.

Faber invited American Sign Language teacher Amy Crumrine and her class to watch the performance along with some ESOL students. The actors would stomp their feet as a way of communicating to the audience to repeat their steps. “Our task and mission is to let people help each other,” Chikisnev said.

During the play, the actors would select about six to eight students on stage to perform alongside with them. They would use different props such as a large scarf to represent a curtain. The students would mimic different acts like playing instruments and forming a circle. The engaging activities were aimed to connect both emotionally and physically with the audience.

“The students really loved that [the actors] included them,” Faber added. Faber taught her ESOL students Helen Keller’s story prior to the the performance and how she had to rely on touch. Afterward, the students had a workshop before the students performed in front of an audience. The students wrote a reflection in class on what they enjoyed.

“We assure that the directors of the school want their students to have more impressions and have more experience and to get other theaters to come [to Watkins Mill],” Chikisvev added.

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