Rochester is known for its thriving Deaf community, but were you aware of the scope of the theater department nestled within RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf?
NTID’s performance group Dangerous Signs recently starred in a video shoot by DeBergerac Productions. Their dynamic show illustrated the magic that has manifested itself in the Panara Theatre for over 40 years.
Dangerous Signs performs American Sign Language (ASL) poetry through dance, mime, music, and storytelling, an approach that captivates deaf and hearing audiences. DeBergerac emphasized the students’ masterful use of choreography, color, gesture, and facial expression to demonstrate how the troupe creates a unique tone for each piece in its repertoire. Professor Luane Davis Haggerty interpreted the poems as recorded voiceovers.
It was a treat to work with NTID Performing Arts yet again after filming their production of Hairspray, in which the roles were double-cast with Deaf and hearing actors performing simultaneously to sign and speak the lines. Robert F. Panara, RIT’s first Deaf professor and founder of the NTID Drama Club, believed it was important to record all performances at NTID Performing Arts to preserve its legacy. Panara’s foresight was keen—DeBergerac is excited to collaborate with faculty and staff to preserve and digitize these videos, including the theatre’s inaugural 1974 performance, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, before they deteriorate and become irrecoverable.
Dangerous Signs is traveling to New York City this weekend to audition for “America’s Got Talent,” so look for them in the national spotlight. DeBergerac will be proud to say they “knew them when.”