Public forum today in Cedar Rapids to discuss issues around play controversy, Deaf Community

Theatre UNI hosts discussion Wednesday in Cedar Falls

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A community forum takes place from 4-8 p.m. today to discuss the issues in the Deaf Community surrounding Theatre Cedar Rapids’ upcoming production of “Tribes,” a play that looks at the experiences of a deaf man who grew up assimilating to his hearing family.

Since no deaf actors came to auditions, the theater cast hearing actors in the roles of Billy, as well as Sylvia, the young woman he meets who is losing her hearing, and becomes his link to the deaf community.

The forum, organized by Hands Up Communications and Community Hands in Cedar Rapids, is open to deaf and hearing communities, and interpretation will be provided. Services of a video interpreter from Georgia also will be used.

It’s designed “to hear perspectives,” said Susan Tyrrell, owner of Hands Up, which provides communication access through sign language interpretation, transcription and video remote interpreting. “They’re trying to discuss the issues at hand and how the Deaf Community feels about it, and how they, as a community, are going to then move forward.

“There was some dialogue yesterday between the community and TCR, so there are some options out there that probably will be shared with the Deaf Community and whoever comes,” Tyrrell said.

Casey Prince, Theatre Cedar Rapids’ executive director, plans to attend.

“The main point is just to open dialogue, so people can hear perspective differences from their own and be more aware on both sides,” Tyrrell said. “After listening to the heart of the Deaf Community — I work in the field, and I understand their perspective better after listening to them, so I think that’s the point.”

On Wednesday, UNI Theatre hosts a discussion about casting deaf roles. That meeting takes place from 5-6 p.m. at the Bertha Martin Memorial Theatre at the University of Northern Iowa. The theater department holds its own meeting for the first 20 minutes, then opens the public discussion. Participants include UNI American Sign Language students, the UNI ASL Club and the Cedar Valley Deaf Community.

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