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!
Paul Raci (Chris), Erinn Anova (Roxy), and Troy Kotsur (Cyrano).
The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre present the world premiere of a modern day classic romance, a re-imagined signed/spoken version of “Cyrano de Bergerac.” CYRANO, written by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Bakersfield Mist) and directed by Simon Levy, opens at The Fountain Theatre on April 28, with previews beginning April 20.
In Sachs’ new adaptation, Cyrano is a deaf poet hopelessly in love with Roxy, a beautiful hearing woman. But she 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? ASL (American Sign Language) becomes the language of love in this new spin on a classic love story.
Troy Kotsur (Cyrano).
“In the original classic, Cyrano feels self-conscious and over-glorifies his enormous nose, but in this modern deaf version, it’s his hands that are the focus,” explains Sachs. “Cyrano’s deafness is channeled through his hands, which swirl and soar to express the most complex human concepts, his inner-most thoughts and feelings, through the beauty of sign language.”
“It’s a mythic story about our hunger for love, the pangs for it,” says Levy. “But the deeper theme is how we communicate with one another. Stephen has written a beautiful adaptation that’s contemporary and fresh, set in a modern city where people communicate via text, Facebook and Twitter. It’s a world of iPhones, Blackberries and tablets. The production marries three forms of communication: ASL, English, and e-language.”
American Sign Language is not English, but a unique language unto itself with its own syntax, sentence structure, slang, humor, subtlety and complexity. It’s the job of ASL masters Tyrone Giordano and Shoshannah Stern to work with the deaf actors to translate the script into ASL, and director Simon Levy works with ASL interpreters in rehearsals. Fight choreographers Brian Danner and Abby Walla must not only create a fight scene between actors Troy Kotsur (Cyrano) and James Royce Edwards, but incorporate the simultaneous sign language with the help of Giordano, Stern and Levy.
A new project such as this has attracted deaf actors from all over the world. Six of the 13-member ensemble are deaf, and many of them have traveled great distances to make their Los Angeles debuts in Cyrano. Auditions were completed using Skype and video submissions.
“Deaf West is the only established theater company in the U.S. that regularly stages new works featuring deaf actors,” notes newly appointed Deaf West Theatre artistic director David Kurs. “Deaf actors from all over the country and the world were anxious to participate.”
Troy Kotsur is Cyrano.
Troy Kotsur (Cyrano), a veteran of Deaf West Theatre (Big River, Pippin, A Streetcar Named Desire, Of Mice and Men), traveled to Los Angeles from his current home in Arizona; Daniel Durant majored in theater at Gallaudet University and comes to L.A. from Maryland; Eddie Buck, who has acted in productions ranging from A Christmas Carol to Romeo and Juliet to Hamlet, joins the cast from Pennsylvania; Maleni Chaitoo (Switched at Birth) recently arrived from New York; and stage, film and TV actress Ipek D. Mehlum comes all the way from Oslo, Norway. Completing the deaf cast is Los Angeles-based actor Bob Hiltermann, who appeared in the Academy Award winning film version of Children of a Lesser God and recurred on All My Children. The cast also includes hearing actors Erinn Anova (Blues For An Alabama Sky, For Colored Girls…, Doubt) as Roxy and Paul Raci (Joseph Jefferson “Best Actor” nomination for Children of a Lesser God in Chicago) as Cyrano’s brother Chris. Hearing ensemble members Al Bernstein, James Babbin, James Royce Edwards, Victor Warren, and Martica De Cardenas also “voice” for the deaf actors.
The set designer for Cyrano is Jeff McLaughlin; lighting designer is Jeremy Pivnick; sound designer is Peter Bayne; video designer is Jeff Teeter; multimedia tech is by Media Fabricators, Inc.; costume designer is Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop designer is Misty Carlisle; fight choreographers are Brian Danner and Abby Walla; production stage manager is Sue Karutz; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; Laura Hill and Deborah Lawlor produce for The Fountain Theatre, and David Kurs produces for Deaf West Theatre. Cyrano is funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Paul Raci (Chris) and Troy Kotsur (Cyrano).
The relationship between The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre dates back 21 years to the early beginnings of both companies. Excited by the visual theatricality of ASL, Stephen Sachs had already been conducting workshops with deaf actors for a number of years. He and Fountain co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor offered office space in their newly founded theater facility to Ed Waterstreet, an actor with National Theatre of the Deaf who envisioned starting a theater company for deaf actors in Los Angeles. Deaf West Theatre produced its first two productions, The Gin Game and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (the latter directed by Sachs) in the Fountain space. Deaf West Theatre went on to produce 40 plays and four musicals in their own venue and around the country, including the Tony-nominated Big River on Broadway, and to win more than 80 theater awards. The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles with over 200 awards for all areas of production, performance, and design. Fountain projects have been seen in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Florida, New Jersey, Minneapolis and Edinburgh.
Cyrano marks Stephen Sachs’ ninth new play, his third incorporating deaf culture and illuminating the deaf world. His play Sweet Nothing in my Ear (1997, PEN USA Literary Award finalist, Media Access Award winner for Theater Excellence) has been produced in theaters around the country and in 2008 was made into a TV movie for CBS starring Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels. Open Window (2005, Media Access Award winner for Theater Excellence) had its world premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse, directed by Eric Simonson. His other plays include Bakersfield Mist (recently optioned for London’s West End and New York), Miss Julie: Freedom Summer (Fountain Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse,Canadian Stage Company, LA Drama Critics Circle award and LA Weekly award nominations for Best Adaptation), Gilgamesh (Theatre @ Boston Court), Central Avenue (PEN USA Literary Award finalist, Back Stage Garland award, Best Play), Mother’s Day, The Golden Gate (Best Play, Drama-Logue), and The Baron in the Trees. Sachs co-founded The Fountain Theatre with Deborah Lawlor in 1990.
Simon Levy was honored with the 2011 Milton Katselas Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Directing credits at the Fountain include A House Not Meant to Stand; Opus; Photograph 51;The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore; The Gimmick with Dael Orlandersmith (Ovation Award-Solo Performance); Master Class (Ovation Award-Best Production); Daisy in the Dreamtime; Going to St. Ives; The Night of the Iguana; Summer & Smoke (Ovation Award-Best Production); The Last Tycoon, which he wrote and directed, (5 Back Stage West awards, including Best Adaptation and Direction); and Orpheus Descending (6 Drama-Logue awards, including Best Production and Direction). What I Heard About Iraq, which he wrote and directed, was produced worldwide including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Fringe First Award) and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (Fringe Award), was produced by BBC Radio, and received a 30-city UK tour culminating in London.
Troy Kotsur (Cyrano) and Erinn Anova (Roxy).
Cyrano opens on Saturday, April 28, with performances Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm through June 10. Preview performances take place April 20-27 on the same schedule with an additional preview performance on Wednesday, April 25 @ 8 pm. Tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays, except previews which are $15. On Thursdays and Fridays only, students with ID are $20 and seniors are $25. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 323 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.
The cast of Cyrano had a great time performing a scene from our upcoming signed/spoken production at SIGNin’ in the Street, the exciting weekend event celebrating creativity in the deaf community at Downtown Disney District. Along with our scene from Cyrano, there were screenings of films and TV shows, booths, interactivity, the cast from “Switched at Birth“, and other live performances. We had a blast! And thousands of people from all over the country showed up to enjoy all of the activities. A fun day!
Downtown Disney is an outdoor shopping and dining area at Disneyland.
Crowds outside watched events happening indoors on a big screen monitor.
The line-up of "Signin' in the Street" events.
The cast from ABC's "Switched at Birth" answer questions.
The theatre was packed with deaf audiences from all over the country.
Deaf West Artistic Director David Kurs (right) with a volunteer at the Deaf West booth.
"Cyrano" company members Ty Giordano, Maleni Chaitoo, Eddie Buck,Daniel Durant, James Royce Edwards and Martica de Cardenas.
"Cyrano" director, Simon Levy.
Actress Deanne Bray (TV's "Sue Thomas") with "Cyrano" actor Paul Raci.
Deanne Bray performed an ASL poem and hosted the performance.
James Royce Edwards and Maleni Chaitoo in "Cyrano".
It was an afternoon of visiting guests at rehearsals for Cyrano at the Fountain. As director Simon Levy and the cast worked further with fight directors Brian Donner and Abby Walla on the funny and thrilling ASL/Combat sequence in the play, the Fountain hosted visitors from “The Happiest Place on Earth” and the Bay Area near Oakland.
The first guests to arrive were four colleagues from Disney and Disneyland. Michelle Baron, Creative Talent Development & Initiatives Manager for Disney Imagineering, spoke to the Cyrano company about the Special Event weekend at Disneyland on March 17 and 18. The Downtown Disney District will host a celebration of creativity in the deaf community – SIGNin’ in the Street. Disney has asked The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West to share a scene from our upcoming co-production of Cyrano at the event.
The "Cyrano" cast enjoy the Q&A discussion with the students.
Later, fifty ASL students from Castro Valley High School arrived by bus to visit the Fountain and watch some of the rehearsal. The Cyrano cast enjoyed a Q&A Talkback session with the ASL students, who were hearing and instructed to silence their voices and communicate only through Sign Language. The students asked the cast many questions about the play, acting, ASL, and deaf culture. A wonderful time was had by all.
Actors Paul Raci and Troy Kotsur speak to the students with a flurry and blur of sign language.
Actor James Royce Edwards has fun flexing arms with the students.
Actors Eddie Buck, Maleni Chaitoo, James Royce Edwards, Daniel Durant, and Martica De Cardenas answer questions from the group.
Deaf/Hearing Company Gathers for First Meeting at Fountain
They came from all over the world. And yesterday met face-to-face for the first time at the Fountain. The large company of artists and production team members for Cyrano gathered for their first rehearsal together, sitting at a long common table, energy and spirits high. A kinetic mix of veteran deaf and hearing actors, fresh new faces, old friends, those familiar with the deaf/hearing process of creating theatre, others new and wide-eyed.
Under the leadership of director Simon Levy, the first afternoon was dedicated to getting to know each other, completing paperwork, discussing the exciting new project, and creating trust and comfort in what Levy calls “the sacred circle” of the company.
ASL Interpreter Elizabeth Greene facilitated communication between the deaf and hearing company members. Fountain Producing Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor welcomed the group, pointing out that Deaf West was first launched at the Fountain back in 1991. Newly appointed Deaf West Artistic Director David Kurs acknowledged his company’s historic legacy of achievement and expressed his excitement about leading DWT into the next phase of new growth and development. Playwright Stephen Sachsspoke briefly about some of the deeper themes of his new play. Actors Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci discussed the unique partnership between deaf and hearing actors, as the hearing actor “voices” what the deaf signs.
The world premiere of Cyrano is a modern day reimagined deaf/hearing version of the classic “Cyrano de Bergerac”. The setting is present day. Cyrano is a brilliant deaf poet in a modern day city. He is hopelessly in love with a beautiful hearing woman, Roxy. But she doesn’t understand sign language and instead loves his hearing brother, Chris. Can Cyrano express his love for Roxy with his hands? Or must he teach Chris to “speak his words” for him, to woo her? ASL becomes the language of love in this modern sign language spin on a classic love story.
Also at the first rehearsal were producer Laura Hill, stage manager Susan Karutz, assistant stage manager Terri Roberts, publicist Lucy Pollak, and ASL master Ty Giordano.
The co-production between the Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre features Troy Kotsur, Paul Raci, Bob Hiltermann, Erinn Anova, Eddie Buck, Maleni Chaitoo, Daniel Durant, Ipek Mehlum, James Babbin, Al Bernstein, Martica de Cardenas, Victor Warren, and James Royce Edwards.
Director Simon Levy addresses the company, interpreted by Elizabeth Greene.
Actor Victor Warren shares his thoughts.
Actor Daniel Durant expresses his excitement about the project.
Actors Eddie Buck, Daniel Durant, and Victor Warren discuss the play with director Simon Levy.
The table work begins.
Actor Troy Kotsur, playing Cyrano, focuses intensely on the discussion.
Actors Ipek Mehlum, Bob Hiltermann and Erinn Anova.