An inspired deaf poet patterns his poetry of love with graceful, sensual movements of the hands. American Sign Language Skill of the deaf actor his body and hands a ballet of movement complemented by the sensuous voice of a hearing actor.
The deaf poet’s face expresses deep emotions of man and woman an afternoon of spellbinding theater. Sign language performers combine with speaking actors the stature of live theater lifts poetry to a new level of imagination.
A remarkable thing — perhaps even historic — happened in a Hollywood casting office last week. The team for the TV show “Criminal Minds” took the extraordinary step of rewriting a character in an episode from a hearing role into a deaf role solely so they could hire a deaf actor. The “Criminal Minds” casting director had seen deaf actor Troy Kotsur on stage in our smash hit production of Cyrano at the Fountain Theatre and was so blown away by his performance that he convinced the TV team to change the role in the upcoming episode from a hearing character to a deaf character just so they could hire Kotsur.
Video Trailer for ‘Cyrano’ at the Fountain
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As Troy tells it:
I walked into the casting director’s office and saw about 10 hearing actors in the waiting room. They were auditioning the same role as I was going for.
After I auditioned, I felt great with the choices I made to present the character and how I went with the flow with the Criminal Minds team in the room.
At first, I assumed they did not know much about Deaf people. During the process, I thought: Did they understand anything I signed? Could they tell if I played the way they wanted the character to be? Did they see the details I brought with my face, eyes and body language for the character? Could they tell the difference between hearing actors and Deaf actors? Is there a difference? Or could only an expert, who knew both cultures, catch the differences? Did the team know what they were looking for? Most teams don’t know until they see what the actors bring in the room.
Deep down inside, I was hoping they wouldn’t hire me because I was Deaf. I wanted to believe they would hire me because of the skills, nuances, and the specifics of what I was able to give for my character, for their story. Good acting.
After I auditioned, I felt that it was possible that they did see the specifics and moments. It was a positive experience.
I learned later that originally the character had lots of action and no speaking lines. They gave the character to a hearing actor, Matthew Jaeger. Matthew has worked with Deaf West Theatre in the past with Deaf and hearing actors. He asked the Criminal Minds team to give Deaf actors a chance to show their work because they can do this character just as well. I’m grateful to Matthew Jaegger who encouraged the Criminal Minds team to give Deaf actors a chance. This all wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Matt.
I also learned that the casting director saw Cyrano at the Fountain Theatre. I had no idea. It’s wonderful to have casting directors and writers see plays at the Fountain and Deaf West for the opportunity it gives for more jobs for Deaf actors. It’s challenging for Deaf actors to get jobs because there aren’t many written roles for Deaf actors to play. Non-speaking roles or Deaf characters are roles I usually audition for.
The Criminal Minds team decided to give it a shot. They did a re-write after they saw my audition. What a journey and a blessing. I am curious to know how the writers will write, to dive into a Deaf person’s mind!”
“I have had the pleasure of repping many deaf artists over the years,” she says. “I always count it as a great success when a deaf client lands a ‘hearing’ role. I have always submitted deaf actors for roles they were right for, whether the breakdown called for a deaf actor or not. Through hundreds of submissions, I have only convinced a casting office or producer four times to see a deaf actor for a role that wasn’t labeled “deaf”. All four times resulted in a job.”
“If only Hollywood was more willing to see deaf actors on all roles. Thanks to the awesome Cyrano production,a Hollywood mind was opened.”
Troy will continue dazzling audiences (and casting directors) in the lead role of Cyrano until the run ends with a final extension on July 29.
Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova in “Cyrano”
“I’m happy that Cyrano got extended twice so that more people have the chance to experience opening their minds and souls to what this show is about” says Troy. ” It gives many people a new perspective or a new light with depth, having two cultures and languages on stage. We’re all basically the same. The ability and skill to communicate can either bring you closer or farther away.”
“I hope this play and more plays like it can continue to inspire writers to create more stories for Deaf actors to get more work.”
Cyrano Final Extension to July 29 (323) 663-1525More Info
I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous to see a show before, but I actually was anxious to see my first show at The Fountain Theatre. More than anything I wanted to love Cyrano. I wanted to tell people that the theatre I was interning at had this amazing show and that everyone just had to see it. And after watching last night’s performance, I can confidently do exactly that.
Though I had done a little research on the show itself, I really was not sure what to expect. And while I had peeked into the theatre before, being there just before a show was a completely different experience. People were speaking English and signing in American Sign Language, and laughing, excited to be there. The theatre filled up fast, and everyone seemed eager for the show to start.
When it did, I was delighted by how intimate it felt. While this should have been no surprise to me, since it is an 80-seat theatre, there was something about the way the stage was set and my proximity to it that made me feel like I was really a part of it all.
Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci are brothers in “Cyrano”
As the play started, I immediately wondered how I would feel about seeing a signed/spoken adaptation. Would it be distracting? Make the show difficult to understand? Well, I shouldn’t have worried. The second Troy Kotsur, the actor playing Cyrano, came on stage everything else seemed to melt away. I soon became engrossed in the story of Cyrano, a deaf man falling in love with a hearing woman. The unorthodox love story trumped everything else. The way this show was put together just worked so well. Sometimes Troy would be signing, and Paul Raci, who played his brother Chris, would be interpreting. Other times, both characters on stage where signing and there were two interpreters on the sidelines translating. I thought this would be distracting, but it wasn’t. Their voices came out as the voices of Chris and Cyrano to the point where I almost forgot they were there. It all just seemed to fit.
Troy Kotsure and Erinn Anova
More than that, it seemed like everyone who saw the play was enjoying it immensely but in different ways. For instance, sometimes the actress playing Roxy (Erinn Anova) would laugh, this really charming laugh, and the hearing audience laughed too. Other times the actor playing Cyrano would sign something which the hearing audience might miss, but really struck a chord with the deaf viewers. And then there were those moments in the play, (which I won’t give away for those yet to see it), that are so completely universal, we all laughed together. It was an unforgettable experience.
I encourage anyone who has yet to see Cyrano to attend as soon as possible. It is a very rare and wonderful experience to see a play with such a well-written story be carried out with both a remarkable cast and well-placed technology weaved throughout. Not only does it fit into our modern world perfectly, acknowledging the growing role of social media, but it gives a voice to a world most viewers don’t typically see, a world they should come experience immediately!
Jessica Broutt is our summer intern at the Fountain Theatre from UC San Diego.
College students from Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising attended a recent performance of Cyrano. The students are in their first or second year of college and are mostly 18 to 22 years old. Their teacher is Alan Goodson, who is also an actor who has appeared on our Fountain stage.
“The class is called Seminar in the Arts,” explains Goodson. ” The students are generally visual artists of one kind or another, but have had little or no exposure to other artistic media – so I try to broaden their artistic horizons by taking them to theatre, classical music, and architectural walks. ”
“My students really enjoyed the show, as did I. Simon Levy did a great job bringing all the various elements together and maintaining the clarity of the piece, as well as creating the emotional impact. Stephen Sachs’ adaptation is very clever, and Troy Kotsur was wonderful.”
After seeing Cyrano at the Fountain, the students were required to write a critique of their play-going experience. Here are a few excerpts from some of the things the students wrote:
“The play moved me because, like most girls my age, I struggle with insecurities and feeling different than anyone else, and it was empowering and a reassuring reminder to not let my insecurities and differences stop me from being myself and living out my life. I would definitely tell other people to see the play, especially younger people who haven’t accepted who they are yet, because it will change people’s views on not only the deaf community, but their views about themselves and inspire them to overcome any challenges in their lives.”
“I highly recommend everyone to see this play because it was very interesting and a tearjerker. The play also taught me to appreciate my hearing and not take it for granted.”
“My interpretation of this play is that it was adapted for a specific reason: to include deaf people in a joyous event that hearing people get to enjoy all the time without constraint. As a hearing person, I watch television, movies, and listen to music all the time, but deaf people do not get that luxury. Therefore, the play was worth doing because it included both parties and successfully captured an audience not used to that type of performance. Cyrano by Stephen Sachs made the audience more aware that technology is ever-present in this generation, what deaf people suffer, and how heartbreak and joy are emotions felt by all people.”
“Seeing the way that Cyrano was all bad and bold when he was in front of others, but hurting on the inside was very moving. Because it seems as though it’s what a lot of people go through every day. I would love to pass this play on to many other friends to show them that you may be surprised when you judge a book by its cover because what lies inside could be eye opening.”
“Ultimately I thought the entire performance was an overwhelming success that moved me and inspired me to not only look at the deaf community with a warm and accepting heart but also to look within myself, and to love what is there, the good and the bad.”
Erinn Anova (Roxy) and Troy Kotsur (Cyrano) in “Cyrano”.
Over the years, Goodsonhas brought several of his Arts classes to the Fountain. Most of the students had never been to live theatre before.
“Bakersfield Mist was a past class favorite, ” says Goodson. “And The Train Driver absolutely knocked their socks off – and many others during the last several years. For most of them, their first experience in a small theatre was at the Fountain, and it always moves them more than the shows in larger venues – both the intimacy of it and the quality and nature of the work.”
On May 10, the cast and company of Cyrano enjoyed a Q&A Talk Back with the audience immediately following the performance. Joining the cast was director Simon Levy, playwrightStephen Sachs , and ASL Masters Tyrone Giordano and Shoshannah Stern. The cast answered questions from the audience on a wide range topics, including a discussion of the themes of the play, the rehearsal process, the ASL translation of the script, and the joy of performing the play as an actor.
A wonderful time was had by all, and the excited conversations continued in the theatre long after the official Q&A was over. Enjoy the photos!
Rave Reviews! Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times!
Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova
The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre have announced a four-week extension of Cyrano, a signed/spoken adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac” that has been re-set in modern-day Los Angeles. The Fountain/Deaf West co-production will continue Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through July 8.
Written by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Bakersfield Mist) and directed by Simon Levy, Cyrano stars Deaf West actor Troy Kostsur in the title role as a brilliant deaf poet hopelessly in love with Roxy, a beautiful hearing woman. But Roxy doesn’t understand sign language and instead loves Chris, his hearing brother. Can Cyrano express his love to Roxy with his hands? Or must he teach Chris to woo her, to “speak his words” for him? American Sign Language (ASL) becomes the language of love in this new spin on a classic love story.
Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci
Over a dozen reviewers have weighed in, earning Cyrano a score of “100% Sweet” on Bitter Lemons, the website that aggregates reviews of Los Angeles theater. “CRITIC’S CHOICE… inspired and inspiring! —Los Angeles Times; “CRITIC’S PICK…clever and deeply moving… bridges the gap between [deaf and hearing] worlds with poignancy and a huge dose of humor.” — Back Stage; “Skillful and impressive… terrific performances.” —LAist; “5 STARS… a poignant, inventive, riotously funny and marvelously satisfying masterpiece!”—Santa Monica Daily Press; “Nothing short of amazing… a dazzling accomplishment.” —Talkin’ Broadway; “A gem… fascinating on so many levels.” —Buzzine; “Superlative… an evening not to be missed.” —StageHappenings; “GO! [a] glorious swirl of words floating around the stage.” —LA Weekly; “An extraordinary production of a terrific play” —Latin Heat; “A sheer and exceptional pleasure.” —LifeInLA.
Cyrano continues through July 8 at The Fountain Theatre. For reservations and information, call 323 663-1525 orclick here.
Review: A refreshing take on ‘Cyrano’ at Fountain Theatre
Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova (photo by Ed Krieger)
by Philip Brandes
Texting and email may have replaced quill and ink in “Cyrano” — Stephen Sachs’ contemporary re-envisioning of Edmond Rostand‘s classic drama — but the problematic nature of communication remains a constant. If anything, the theme gains new dimension and impact through the collision of hearing, deaf and online cultures in this inspired and inspiring adaptation’s debut co-production from the Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre companies.
Performed simultaneously in spoken dialogue and American Sign Language by a mixed ensemble of hearing and deaf actors, Sachs’ moving adaptation transposes Rostand’s archetypal heroic outsider into a gifted coffeehouse poet whose inferiority complex is rooted in his deafness rather than his perfectly normal nose. Troy Kotsur excels as this modern Cyrano, who fears that talking with his hands poses an unbridgeable gulf between himself and Roxy (Erinn Anova) the hearing-only poetry fan he worships from afar. Learning that his beloved is in turn infatuated with his rock musician brother, Chris (Paul Raci), who has always been his “voice” in the hearing world, Cyrano returns the favor by composing romantic texts and emails to Roxy on Chris’ behalf (smartly rendered in videography by Jeffrey Elias Teeter).
Sachs’ adaptation skillfully maps Rostand’s principals to their updated versions. Torn between pride and loneliness, Kotsur’s Cyrano resists identifying with either the hearing or deaf communities — or the modern world, for that matter — and evokes the heartbreaking weight of the realization that self-sacrificing vicarious passion is not all it’s cracked up to be. Raci is by turns hilarious and poignant as clueless loser Chris, and Anova invests Roxy with the sensitivity and sense of isolation she unknowingly shares with Cyrano.
The few arguable limitations here lie in adhering a bit too faithfully to some creakier aspects of Rostand’s original (particularly the opening brawling sequence), but the performances quickly catch fire in Simon Levy’s well-paced and precisely focused staging. Besides offering a refreshing take on a classic, the signed/spoken presentation offers hearing folks the opportunity to appreciate sign language’s unique emotional expressiveness.