Playing bilingual : interweaving deaf and hearing cultural practices to achieve equality of participation in theatrical performance processes
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This thesis aims to interrogate the potential for equality of participation in theatrical performance for deaf and hearing actors and spectators. The research builds on earlier work by the author that reveals that existing methods employed to provide accessibility for deaf people are widely considered by deaf spectators to be ineffective in offering equality of participation. It sits within an interdisciplinary theoretical frame that draws from Deaf Studies, Performance Studies and Bourdieu’s field theory. Methodologically the research is grounded in Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and draws on the principles of Participatory Action Research, guidelines for ethical practice when working with deaf people, and Applied Theatre practice as research. Knowledge is generated by a group of ten actors, five who self-identify as deaf and five as hearing. They are tasked with identifying techniques for creating performances that might be equally accessible to deaf and hearing audiences. Over five days they devise nine new scenes, the primary data of the project. The scenes are shown to a mixed deaf/hearing audience, and metadata concerning audience response to the scenes are generated in focus groups. Further metadata concerning the creative process are generated by the actors, using reflective diaries and small group reflexive interviews. Throughout the project, the lead researcher predominantly adopts the role of participant observer; his field notes also form part of the metadata. The scenes created employ a variety of cross-cultural and bilingual performance techniques. Despite the ensemble’s view that each scene will be successful in offering access, the response of the spectators suggests that equality of participation is not achieved; the societal frames of each group create different expectations and prejudices that influence the receptive process. Socio-analysis of the metadata concerning the creative process reveals a similar situation. Examples of practice do occur, however, in which equality of participation is achieved. This is dependent on participants over-riding their own ideological positions, particularly those concerning language and translation, to create a third space where practice is not determined by field conditions, but instead where participants who draw from both oppressor and oppressed groups work together to create a utopia of Freirean equality.