Area students will have a chance to see a play performed by deaf actors this week. Sign Stage on Tour’s production of “James and the Giant Peach” is a Deaf Theatre adaptation of the book written by Roald Dahl. Productions address real life conflicts found within deaf culture and feature deaf characters. The production is sponsored by Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council.
The play will be performed Wednesday on two Stephenville campuses. Gilbert Elementary fifth graders will watch the play at 9:30 a.m. and sixth graders at 12:30 p.m. Chamberlin second graders will see the performance at 10 a.m. and first graders at 1 p.m.
“James and the Giant Peach” follows young orphan James who is forced to live with his aunts. He pretends to be deaf to avoid interacting with them. He escapes into a mystical world inside a giant peach growing near his house.
Dahl wrote the play on yellow paper with a pencil, inside a small hut in his British garden. He also wrote the screeplay “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “You Only Live Twice,” a James Bond movie.
The script is translated into American Sign Language (ASL) and the characters in the play use ASL when communicating. The actors also speak every line.
A lot of work and attention goes into translating a play from spoken words to ASL.
Many signs portray whole ideas or feelings and one word may be represented by different signs depending on the context of the sign.
ASL is visual and relies on the eyes and hands for communication. And just as verbal languages vary in different countries, so do sign languages. It is a completely unique language on its own.
A person using ASL uses facial expressions, body movement, and signs to convey their feelings. Facial expressions are exaggerated to communicate the importance or intensity of the feeling and to show the difference between a question and a statement.
ASL also uses space. A person using ASL will use the space around their body to create the language.
ASL syntax and grammar is also unique. Time is usually the first thing signed in an ASL sentence, then the object of the sentence, then the subject and finally the action. A literal translation of “I went to the movies yesterday” might be “Yesterday movie I go.”