Tribes: 3 things I learned about language – curious arts

Tribes by Nina Raine at U of A Studio Theatre. May 2015. Photo by Ed Ellis.

As I worked on the communications and marketing to support the U of A Studio Theatre production of Tribes, I learned a great deal about the power of inclusive language. I am grateful to the whole Tribes team for this collaborative learning experience and especially thankful to dramaturg Rohan Kulkarni for his guidance as TJ and I worked to communicate about the play with our audiences.

Here are three things I learned from working on the communications for Tribes

1. The Deaf community generally prefers to stay away from the term “disability.”

To be Deaf is not considered a disability, and is rather treated as a cultural difference (in terms of language and expression) from the hearing world.

Any terms that suggest a “lack of ability” to hear are generally not appropriate: for example, “hearing impaired.”

The two most common and acceptable terms are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

2. Capital D “Deaf” vs. lower case d “deaf”:

The use of capital D in “Deaf” signifies that the individual accepts his/her place as a member of the Deaf community. It implies that the Deaf individual has a Deaf identity, which is a cultural and social way of defining oneself.

Small d “deaf” is used to describe the physical and sensory experience of deafness.

The character of Billy in Nina Raine’s Tribes is an example of someone who is born deaf, and grows up to become a Deaf person with a Deaf identity.

3. ASL (American Sign Language) is just one variant of Sign Language — it is not universal.

Deaf people in various parts of the world sign differently. ASL is not a visual code for English. In fact, it can be quite different from English in its grammar, syntax and vocabulary.

It’s most appropriate to treat ASL as its own language.

Support the USEED online fundraising campaign for Tribes: projects/252/home

Your support will go towards the additional production costs of ASL interpreters for Saturday, May 16 and Saturday, May 23 performances of the play at U of A Studio Theatre.

Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: Tribes by Nina Raine.
Dates: May 14 – May 23 at 7:30 p.m. No show Sunday.
$5 preview Wednesday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m.
ASL interpreted performances: Saturday, May 16 and Saturday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee Thursday, May 21 at 12:30 p.m.
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $11 student, $22 adult, $20 senior available online now at TIX on the Square and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.

Directed by MFA director Amanda Bergen, as her thesis project, Tribes is also Robyn Ayles’ MFA Theatre Design thesis.

See the show page on the University of Alberta website for more information:

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