A unique theatre performance featuring Deaf and hearing actors, which was delivered to sell-out audiences in Hamilton and Auckland recently, has received a $40,000 grant from the New Zealand Sign Language Fund.
At the End of My Hands was a piece of bilingual theatre directed and facilitated by University of Waikato's Dr Laura Haughey, in collaboration with the Equal Voices Arts Company.
"We're extremely pleased and grateful for the grant from the Fund. It will enable us to deliver new performances in Hamilton, Auckland and Wellington, as well as extend the actor training workshops further afield," says Dr Haughey.
Working with Deaf and hearing actors using both New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and spoken English, At the End of My Hands told the history of NZSL, alongside experiences and stories from the Deaf actors about Deaf culture in New Zealand.
"We were so pleased with the response from the audiences. The feedback was hugely supportive, warm and affirmative of the stories shared," says Dr Haughey.
Dr Haughey brings eight years' experience working in Deaf-led theatre in the UK and says she enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the unique nature of Deaf culture in New Zealand.
"I wanted to make a show with Deaf and hearing actors here in New Zealand, and work on developing an aesthetic of manual languages fused with voice, gesture, physical storytelling and visual vernacular," she says.
"Award-winning British dramaturg Bill Hopkinson also helped to shape the piece in its early stages. Drawing on his experience in Britain and the USA of inclusive theatre forms he collaborated with me and the actors to give a theatrical shape to the iconic stories they told," she says.
With the opportunity now to build on what she has created, thanks to the New Zealand Sign Language Fund, Dr Haughey is looking forward to sharing these performances with even more people and continuing to raise the appreciation and understanding of Deaf culture in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Sign Language Fund has been established to support projects that increase NZSL use and proficiency, and to support the ability of the Deaf community and NZSL users to promote and maintain NZSL.
Performance dates are yet to be confirmed but are expected to be late 2015/early 2016. For more information please contact Dr Laura Haughey at [email protected].
Photo courtesy of Sycamore Media