The upcoming play "Children of a Lesser God" combines the love of theater and practice of American Sign Language held by much of its cast. Directed by senior Ingrid Torres, the show is being produced as an independent project.\n"It blends the two things I studied in college -- sign language and theater," Torres said.\n"Children of a Lesser God" follows the story of a speech therapist, played by senior Stuart Ritter, who falls in love with Sarah, a deaf student. They marry and seem happy, but through the course of the play, their relationship begins to crumble over a litigation suit against the School for the Deaf. Sarah decides she wants to make her own statement in court and not let others continue to speak for her, and the marriage between the two begins to fall apart.\nEventually, though, the compassion that brought the couple together returns. The same force that drove them apart -- their wanting to understand and be accepted by each other -- eventually brings them closer together.\n"It's just a really good play," Torres said. "It really addresses a lot of issues in today's society -- issues with minorities and those with disabilities and what even really consists a disability."\nIn addition to raising consciousness and concern for the hearing impaired in society, Torres said all proceeds of the show above and beyond the cost of production will go to Hands Alive, the theater department of the Indiana School for the Deaf.\nTorres held auditions in February to find her cast -- eight in total -- all with varying degrees of American Sign Language proficiency.\nSenior Ryan Kirk said his signing skill improved through his involvement with the performance.\n"It was definitely a challenge," Kirk said. "I had taken four semesters (of American Sign Language) here at IU. I used it as my foreign language requirement. It was always something that I was interested in, and now doing this show my senior year is like coming full circle with it."\nBecause the program is an independent project and completely student-run, Torres and her cast solicited a variety of arts committees and local businesses for donations and funding to cover production costs.\n"Because we're all students, it was hard to fund it all," Torres said. "But everyone's been really dedicated."\nIn addition to pounding the pavement for monetary support, the cast also had to be dedicated to develop its work in American Sign Language. While expertise in sign language wasn't a requirement to be cast in the play, Torres said, a background in it was helpful. One of the difficulties cast members who already signed had to overcome was ridding themselves of the various dialects they had picked up over time. Kirk said the cast members watched video tapes to perfect their signing and learn their parts accurately.\nWhen casting, Torres said the speech and hearing department helped her in choosing students appropriate for each part. The cast also received help from Wayne Mnich, clinical lecturer in speech and hearing sciences. Mnich made a video, signing every line of the play. The tape was then distributed to all of the students, who were in turn able to learn their lines more easily.\nThrough the process of developing the production, students became dedicated to more than just perfecting their lines, though.\n"I really think in Bloomington, a lot of people aren't made aware of the deaf community as much as they ought to be," Kirk said. "I think this is a great opportunity to show them an aspect of that culture that isn't very prominent in Bloomington. It's a lesson in diversity and acceptance."\n"Children of a Lesser God" will run at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, and at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre.
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