The Universal Drum: Willy Conley, Gallaudet, & New Music!
SIGN & SING is thrilled to partner with Willy Conley to produce his work, The Universal Drum, with music! We will be presenting a performance workshop of our progress on Saturday, January 13, 2018 in New York! More information about the first performance can be found here.
Willy Conley is a Deaf American playwright and theater professor at Gallaudet University. This fall, he is teaching "Sign Language Translation for the Stage," and The Universal Drum is the class's midterm assignment.
From Willy Conley: "The poem was commissioned by Imagination Stage for their Deaf Access Company, which consisted of high school aged Deaf and hearing actors. The company wanted a short, creative piece to put together on the road which would introduce them to prospective audiences about who they were as a group. I love drums, and I saw parallels and metaphors between them and this company. I created an opening that is somewhat reminiscent of "Stomp!" and their work. Later, The Universal Drum was produced by Arbos - Company for Music and Theatre in Vienna, Austria (a Deaf-hearing theatre company).
I really like the idea of live singing and drumming accompanying the ASL expression of my poem. The main thing that would be important to me for Sign and Sing to produce this would be that the piece be visual, ASL-centric (not ASL following the singing but vice-versa), and is Deaf-audience- friendly."
The assignment was to create an ASL interpretation of Conley's poem. Lucia Cavalier, Gideon Firl, Jacinda Baldwin-Gomez, Carrie Suggs, Trent Harper, Chuck Kalu, Thandiwe Dunn, and Angela Reel all wrote beautiful interpretations of Conley's poem, under his guidance. Thank you for your hard work!
Our next step in the process is the musical creation. SIGN & SING is working with composer Brad Balliett to maintain the ASL-centricity of the piece while incorporating music (specifically percussion) in a theatrical performance.