Story District Goes 3D

    News and Information June 29th, 2016 By Louise Chase Dettman

    Story District's Storytelling 101 students tell their true stories live onstage June 30 at Red Rocks, and you're going to want to be there. For the first time ever, a Story District 101 Student Showcase will feature both deaf and hearing students sharing the stage for an evening of three-dimensional storytelling like no other.

    Always looking to offer diverse perspectives and provide a training ground for new voices, Story District opened this 101 class to deaf and hearing students as part of a long-term plan to bridge the two communities. The class features two storytelling teachers, four ASL interpreters, and a curriculum adapted to meet the needs of both audiences in one learning space at Gallaudet University.

    "DC has one of the nation's biggest deaf communities," notes Story District Artistic Executive Director Amy Saidman. "We have a longstanding relationship with members of that community, who come to our shows, work with us to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, and have even created a storytelling show of their own-- -ASLive. Storytelling classes and shows that integrate deaf and hearing tellers are just the next natural step."

    The Humanities Council of DC awarded Story District a grant to make the dual-language (ASL and English) class possible. ASLive founders David Day and Jonathan Kovacs are among the four deaf participants in the class learning alongside six hearing students, all taught by instructors Meredith Maslich and Katy Barrett.

    Day feels that storytelling offers a common ground between ASL and English-speaking communities. "Hearing people are living through their ears, deaf people through their eyes. We express ourselves three-dimensionally. But our perspectives are not very far off when we learn more about each other." Day and Kovacs look forward to passing on what they learn from Story District to ASL storytellers to enhance ASLive shows.

    "Storytelling is a big part of the deaf community," says class participant and Story District and ASLive fan Lizzie Sorkin. "I've never done it live, though. I want to strengthen my storytelling skills, get better at articulating myself and providing the audience with a strong visual of what I'm sharing."

    "This is an interesting experiment," says Maslich, a 10-year veteran Story District teacher, who owns her own independent publishing company. "The addition of deaf students to the class challenges us to think about the way we connect with participants and to gage how best to assist each person with story development and delivery."

    "With the help of the ASL participants and interpreters," notes Barrett. "We're adapting and adjusting as we go to make the class useful for everyone." A storyteller and Story District show host, Barrett works with ASL interpreters in her day job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    Two interpreters participating in this Storytelling 101 class, Krystin Balzarini and Steven Saenz of Access Interpreting, Inc., have been Story District’s “Second Tuesdays at Town” ASL interpreters since Day and Saidman first partnered to offer the service. Helping facilitate the relationship at the time was Story District intern Liz Young.

    A hearing fan of deaf culture, Young learned ASL in college. “One of the things I loved most about the culture was its love of storytelling,” she says. “Storytelling in ASL is amazing because the story being told literally comes to life. It becomes 3D. I'm so proud that Story District’s relationship with the ASL community has continued to expand. A deaf-friendly class not only enhances the amazing quality of Story District, but also the continuing development of ASLive.”

    The final student performance will take place June 30 at 7:30 PM at Red Rocks 1348 H St NE, Washington, District of Columbia. RSVP HERE


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