Theater Students Learn Sign Language from Scratch for New Play

Sign and sound hit the stage for Wylie High School's newest production.

It's a play called "Sweet Nothing in my Ear," and uses a mix of sign language and speaking to reach the hearing-impaired audience that typically cannot truly enjoy the theater.

"It portrays both sides of the deaf culture and the hearing world so everyone can get an all around perspective," John Dolan, a junior at Wylie and a lead in the play, said on Monday.

Learning a new language is hard enough -- now, combine it with learning your role for a play and you get a little bit of an idea of what these kids have been through to put this together.

"We had to teach the kids sign language from scratch," said Chris Shoemake, Wylie's Theatre Director.

Half of the actors in the one-act play do not speak a word -- instead, another cast member is off to the side saying what they're signing.

Watching these kids now, you would think they had been doing it all their lives.

But as you can imagine, the rehearsals didn't kick off without some hesitation.

"I didn't think we could do it, but we proved it wrong," said Emily Schultz, a senior who plays the part of a deaf mother & wife.

"I was a bit reserved at first, because I didn't think I could really handle it," Dolan agreed

So four months later, how did they get to be such pros?

"What we did was have the entire play script signed for us, then I made a DVD of that and they watched the DVD and learned their lines line by line by line," Shoemake explained.

And line by line, these students have now created a seamless blend of two languages they hope everyone will truly understand.

The play is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday evening at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Abilene.

It caters to both deaf and hearing people in the community.

Admission is free, but donations are accepted, and all proceeds will go toward the Abilene March of Dimes.

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