How deaf performers got onto the stage in Vt.; presentation in Bristol

The beauty and expressiveness of sign language are intriguing and offer a glimpse into a rich but sometimes inaccessible culture. To learn more about Vermont’s deaf community, the public is invited to attend “Vermont’s Deaf Culture: Building Bridges Through Theater” with Julia Kitonis and Don Petit-Homme on May 17 at Bristol’s Holley Hall from 7-8:30 p.m.
This event is sponsored by One World Library Project and supported by the Vermont Humanities Council. It is free and handicapped accessible. American Sign Language interpreters will be present. Members of the deaf community are particularly encouraged to attend and participate in the follow-up discussion.
Julia Kitonis, currently completing her freshman year at the University of Vermont, spent her senior year in high school pursuing a unique independent study. Inspired by her involvement in theater and her friendship with a deaf performer, Kitonis became interested in American Sign Language (ASL) and its theatrical possibilities.
“I thought there would be no better way for me to merge my interests than by bringing ASL and deaf culture into theater, thus bridging experiences onstage and in the audience through an artistic experience with different languages and cultures united on stage.”
The resulting performance, “Songs for a New World,” involved both deaf and hearing performers and was staged in May 2017 at FlynnSpace. Through this project Kitonis came to know Vermont’s deaf community and learned about its rich and complex history. “I got to work with an incredible cast of eight performers from all walks of life here in Vermont to present a piece of theatre that was truly unique and meaningful to our com-munity.”
Don Petit-Homme, a cast member in “Songs for a New World,” has been deaf since birth. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and moved to Vermont ten years ago. Petit-Homme’s interest in theater began in college, where he participated in campus productions. Petit-Homme is active in the deaf community, having served on committees with the Vermont Association of the Deaf and Deaf Advocacy Services. He has also taught ASL. Petit-Homme is currently employed as an accounting technician for Homeland Security.
The presenters will offer an overview of Vermont’s deaf community, its experiences and its history. They will focus on deaf theater of the 20th and 21st centuries and the process of bringing “Songs for a New World” to life as a multilingual and multicultural work of theater here in Vermont. Time will be available after the presentation for questions and discussion.
For more information about this event or One World Library Project, contact the Lawrence Memorial Library at 802-453-2366 or go to OneWorldLibraryProject.org or the One World Library Project Facebook page.

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