Program Director's Comment:
Astonishingly enough, the Washington, DC metropolitan area has become a theatre hotbed in recent years, with 60+ companies active within a 25-mile radius, creating another hotbed of opportunities for theatre students from local colleges and universities. Gallaudet is in a position to capitalize on that, which is why I’m pleased to announce that Faction of Fools (FoF) will be in residence at our theatre department for the 2011-12 season and potentially beyond.
I’ve been asked several times: why is the theatre department, at Gallaudet, the only liberal arts university for Deaf and hard of hearing people, hosting a hearing company, or a company made up of hearing people? The nature of the professional theatre circuit is highly competitive and often ruthless, unsentimental even, and d/Deaf people entering this profession are already at an immediate disadvantage as a multi-minority group. We are a linguistic minority, we are a cultural minority, and we are additionally perceived—rightfully or not—as a group associated with disability.
Our theatre department’s new partnership with Faction of Fools not only fits within the framework of the philosophy guiding the new direction of our program AND coincides with the University’s new emphasis on developing relationships beyond its campus, but it is also a conscious, outside-the-box effort to address the historic, ongoing professional networking difficulties facing d/Deaf people seeking to work in the mainstream theatre circuit. I have been working for some time to put Gallaudet on the map as a bona fide DC theatre destination, too, and by virtue of our partnership with FoF, we’re plugged in now—I’m quite excited about that.
Faction of Fools, as an organization, had been on a quest for a stable venue for some time now–more specifically, a venue stable enough to host at least 16 performances of their productions throughout the coming season in order to be eligible for Helen Hayes consideration. To clarify, that would be at least 16 performances PER production. FoF productions feature a rotating ensemble of local actors who are currently active members at some of the other theatres operating in Washington, DC. I quickly realized that this had the makings of a win-win situation for the both of us, and a series of exploratory conversations with Matt Wilson, FoF’s artistic director, and Dr. Lindsey Snyder, FoF’s director of access, began–these conversations quickly turned serious enough, and not long after, the invitation to Faction of Fools to become a resident company at the Theatre Arts Department was formally extended.
The new agreement between FoF and our theatre department stipulates that in order for FoF to use our space for rehearsals and performances, they must incorporate an average of 1-2 Gallaudet theatre majors/minors in their productions. I am trying to improve the odds for Gallaudet theatre students with a proactive model of career networking within a “safe” environment—if Gallaudet Theatre Major X is in the same FoF production as Artist Y, who is active with 2-3 other DC-area theatres, this potentially improves the odds of Major X finding work with those same theatres. I’ll be the first to concede that I may be overly optimistic and this may blow up in my face yet, but I’m more than willing to give this a shot and see what happens from here out. At least some semblance of a post-graduation networking (and support) system is infinitely preferable to a nonexistent one.
Additionally, they will provide specialized training workshops to Gallaudet theatre majors/minors in Commedia dell’Arte, breathing techniques, acrobatics, and other skills—a sampling of skills which strengthens our average student’s theatre resume prior to graduation. That will be invaluable in such a student’s quest for professional work in theatre and/or film, or his/her application to a MFA program anywhere in the United States. Indirectly, those same acquired skills may somehow end up benefiting 21st century Deaf theatre if and/or when the time comes. Once a semester, separate workshops will be offered by FoF to the Gallaudet community itself.
To kick things off, 2 Gallaudet theatre majors—senior James McGowan and junior Randi Medugno—as well as Joey Caverly, a recent graduate, were in the cast of Faction of Fools’ summertime Fringe Festival production of Tales of Courage and Poultry, and I’m proud to say it was highly successful.
Reviews of Tales of Courage and Poultry:
It was followed by The Mandrake, a romantic comedy written by Machiavelli—the one and same author of The Prince, a treatise on how to acquire and keep power by any and all means necessary. Randi Medugno returned in this one, and she was joined by another junior, Charlie Ainsworth.
Reviews of The Mandrake:
Last August, various publications in the DC-metro area came out with their annual theatre season previews, and Faction of Fools was profiled in two. Check these out:
In a nutshell, as new chair and on behalf of our theatre department, I will prioritize mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships that are unambiguous in their practical and professional value to the average Gallaudet theatre student.
Last thing left to say here: welcome to Gallaudet, Fools!
-Ethan Sinnott, Program Director