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Before taking the stage as Bobby in “Stephen Sondheim’s Company by Deaf Broadway,” Garrett Zuercher shared how the all-deaf theater company began. Zuercher says he never intended to start a theater company, but during a Sondheim watch party over Zoom, he noticed the captioning was “not adequate” for a Deaf audience.
“Sondheim is famous for his complex music, his overlapping rhythms – two songs happening simultaneously – and captions really can’t reflect that,” Zuercher said. So, Zuercher, and his friends, who include James “Joey” Caverly, from Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building,” decided to do something about it. They created a company of Deaf actors using American Sign Language as individuals.
Deaf Broadway changed the audience experience by allowing the audience to follow each actor using ASL for their role. Traditional theatrical performances tend to use an interpreter that signs everything, without regard to who said it. This makes the experience of seeing a Sondheim show easier to follow.
The show in New York drew a huge audience of 1,100 people. Caverly, who directed the performance, offers a simple explanation for the success of the all-Deaf theater group. “We have a lot of heart,” Caverly said.
As for inspiration, Zuercher attributes seeing a televised performance of Audra McDonald delivering the song, ‘Where I Hang My Hat Is Home.’ “I grew up a deaf boy in Wisconsin, in rural Wisconsin. Farms and cows and corn and Broadway was unattainably far,” Zuercher said.
He added: “I was just captivated by how she physicalized the role and how she delivered that song. And I told myself, someday I’m going to New York to do that.” And now, as he takes on Bobby, he gets to play the role he’s always wanted.
This article was provided by The Associated Press.