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Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays

Willy Conley

Publication Year: 2009

After spending three years in The National Theatre of the Deaf performing plays by hearing authors featuring hearing characters, Willy Conley realized that he wanted to write plays with deaf, hard-of- hearing, and hearing characters created from the Deaf perspective. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the result of his desire in twelve masterful plays. “I write for the eye, always searching for live, mobile, provocative images that would fill and illuminate the entire stage space with the complexities, the pathos, and the humor involved when deaf and hearing cultures merge or collide,” writes Conley in his introduction. His plays depict a wide range of Deaf characters, including two brothers locked in a tragic rivalry familiar to families of all backgrounds; the broadly comedic Deaf Guide and hearing Techie interspersing laughs with cultural lessons in their Museum of Signs for People with Communication Disorders; Everyone searching for her Good Deeds as she faces imminent Death in an updating of the classic morality play, plus many others. These works explore a broad palette of circumstances with and without hearing characters, allowing Deaf characters to interact minus the direct influence that the dominant culture might exert. Vignettes of the Deaf Character and Other Plays presents the drama and passion of a master playwright who, through his perceptions, reveals facets of the Deaf character in all of us.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

title page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvii

As humans, we have a need for a good story, and most everyone has at least one good story to tell. Yet, relatively few of us make the effort to be published. Even fewer become playwrights. After all, it is difficult enough to be published in this day and age without choosing an apparently esoteric art form. Yet, it seems ...

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pp. xix-xxvii

I was born profoundly deaf on August 5, 1958, at 12:15 a.m. in the Hospital for the Women of Maryland in Baltimore. My mother used to tell me that I was an actor when I was a toddler. That was before I acquired a language. My parents did not know I was deaf until I turned three, which was in 1961—the dark ages ...

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pp. 1-10

One evening, after an especially long day of work at Gallaudet University, Willy Conley and I went out to grab dinner together at a restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C.—a place noteworthy for its multicultural and politically fired atmosphere. We ate and continued a conversation begun in the English Department’s ...

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Vignettes of the Deaf Character: A Series of Monodramas and Short Plays

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pp. 11-61

Playwright’s Note: The following is a series of comic, tragicomic, and dramatic vignettes for a small ensemble of deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing actors to explore and perform on the subject of the “Deaf character.” Except for the opening piece, actors introduce each vignette with a prelude that is a fact about Deaf life ...

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The Hearing Test

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pp. 62-85

Playwright’s Note. Sign language interpreters for Mrs. Goldman, Dr. Snyder, and the radio announcer should be placed creatively on stage, somewhere off center stage but in a place where Deaf audience members can easily follow the dialogue. Michael’s lines should not be interpreted since he is not to be understood ...

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Broken Spokes: A Drama in Seven Scenes

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pp. 86-140

Playwright’s Note. I have always been fascinated by relationships between brothers and have often wondered what it would be like to have one, especially an older deaf brother. My ideal big brother—who, of course, could do no wrong—would put his arms protectively around me and walk down the streets of life ...

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For Every Man, Woman, and Child: A Modern Morality Play Inspired by EVERYMAN

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pp. 141-176

Playwright’s Note. Thirty years ago I read Everyman—on which this play is based—in Professor Robert Panara’s Great World Drama class at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). For those who don’t know him, Panara is one of the greatest teachers of dramatic literature, and he is largely responsible for ...

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The Fallout Shelter

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pp. 177-205

Playwright’s Note. This play was borne out of a Cold War obsession during my public school years. I wondered how people would behave during a nuclear attack from the Communists. This fear crept into me during air raid drills as I sat on cold floors in concrete-lined hallways with my head between my knees. ...

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Playing Seriously: A Comedy-Drama for Kids Young and Old

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pp. 206-235

[As the kids enter the auditorium, the company is in various stages of warmups—the types of warm-ups will depend on the skills of the cast. The following is an example: ballet stretches, dance and tap moves, vocal ranges, Shakespearean or dramatic monologues, sign-mime images, mime exercises, ...

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Citizenship: A Short Comedy

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pp. 236-241

[ANNA sits in the corner of a waiting room reading a magazine. The INTERVIEWER is doing mundane paper-pushing chores at his desk: stamping forms, shuffling papers, sharpening pencils, organizing paper clips, etc. The INTERVIEWER enters, looks at the others in the waiting room, and takes a seat near ANNA. ...

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The Expression of a Black and White Man: A Dramatic Monologue

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pp. 242-245

JASON: This is easy money. Put up a table. Set up a pile of brochures here; a pile of catalogs there. Unfold this poster and set it up behind everything. Presto—it’s recruitment time! Runny money. Wanna know the occupational hazard of this job? Paper cuts, from flipping open these brochures. ...

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The water falls.

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pp. 246-280

Playwright’s Note. All interactions between Jed and the other characters take place in Jed’s mind. The characters move about in a collage of surrealistic actions, as do the water reflections and sounds that occur throughout the play. The audience needs to see the way thoughts course and reverberate through Jed’s mind. ...

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The Universal Drum: A Dramatic Visual Poem with Drum Accompaniment

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pp. 281-284

[An actor comes on stage rolling a short barrel, tube, and/or a large bowl. A few people enter with a flexible drum head and use it like a minitrampoline, flinging up some object that is easy to bounce. Another person can bring on the fasteners or whatever is needed to secure the drum head over the barrel. ...

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The Girl Who Saved a Village: Adapted from Indian Tales

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pp. 285-303

Playwright’s Note. Certain members of the ensemble will act as the “visual chorus” for this play. They will perform various roles, such as the Villagers, the trees, and so forth. They will also be “puppeteers” handling such roles as the gods and the Maharajah’s army. It is important to have an Indian choreographer as a consultant ...

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Falling on Hearing Eyes: A Touring Museum of Sign/Anguish for People with Communication Disorders

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pp. 304-338

Playwright’s Note. Whenever I get a dramatic image in my mind that stays with me for days, I know it is time to record it and find a way to present it in concrete form for the stage. Some years ago, I saw several run-down, one-man Native American museums in the Southwest. I was astonished that important artifacts ...

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9781563684548
E-ISBN-10: 1563684543
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563684098
Print-ISBN-10: 1563684098

Page Count: 366
Illustrations: 25 photos
Publication Year: 2009