“Taste of Sunrise” Take-Aways from Cast Members (Part 2)

by Haley Flanders


The cast and Julia Ashworth (director) and Heather Richardson (stage manager) embrace the playwright Suzan Zeder (center) at the final performance of the show, this past Saturday, March 26. She attended the show since it was part of the “Theatre in Our Schools” Conference, and she was the keynote speaker. All three of the plays in the trilogy were performed or featured as a staged reading at the conference held at BYU March 25-26.

As promised, here is the second and final installment of the take-aways from the cast. The previous blog post featured six of the cast members, and this post will feature another six! During the final post-show discussion, an audience member asked the cast to share the things they have learned and felt by creating and performing this piece of theatre together. Since only a few could share, luckily we have this blog to give you more insight int the individual experiences of various cast members. Enjoy!

1602-28 058 Play the Taste of Sunrise publicity February 16, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4067Katie Hyatt plays the role of Emma Flynn.

“I would like to be a drama therapist using plays, such as The Taste of Sunrise, to empower communities and schools to be inclusive and overcome the common struggles that hard situations create. I believe I will be able to help communities become inclusive and accepting through these experiences.”


12246655_10206935532818232_2316194396767906031_nJason Keeler plays the role of Roscoe and the signer for Jonas Tucker.

“I hope to be accepted into the supply chain program or either Recreational management. Nevertheless I hope my life will still greatly involve opportunities in the Deaf world.”


12705306_1683890208535109_2386289121032772808_nBrooklyn Downs plays the role of Maizie’s voice and signer. 

“I am currently working on my missionary application and will be expecting my call in a few weeks. I hope to be able to have more opportunities to do shows at BYU as well as be more involved in the Deaf community.”



Lizzie Mickelsen plays the role of Izzy Sue Ricks, along with various workers at the Central Institute for the Deaf.

“I want to keep being involved in theatre.  I’m still finding where I fit in this wacky world, but I love costume and makeup design.  The more opportunities I have to design the more I fall in love with the craft.  Being able to help bring stories like this to life would be a dream.”

12565640_10153861810199919_2437488580781122779_nChristina Hernandez plays the roles of the signer for Dr. Alexis Graham and a student at the Central Institute for the Deaf.

“I have often imagined myself being a theatre teacher, and last semester I even thought about being a theatre teacher within a Deaf school/community. I am currently a theatre arts studies major, thinking minoring in both TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other language) and communications. I want to always have theatre in my life. Auditioning for plays as often as I can and trying to be in a production each year, at least. I want to go to another country and teach English, and use my background in theatre as often as possible. Theatre really is a part of me, and ASL is starting to be the same.”

8167_871596879604493_503135574572893630_nElyse Allen plays the role of the signer for Izzy Sue Ricks and a student at the Central Institute for the Deaf.

My future aspirations include gaining my BFA in acting, becoming fluent in ASL and doing my best to be happy and follow the Lord’s plan for me. (She just received her mission call and will serve in ASL).

1602-28 477 Play the Taste of Sunrise publicity February 16, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4551

Jake Earnest plays the role of Jonas Tucker. 

“My experience working on this show has been incredible. I learned the beauty of sign language, and it instilled a desire in me to learn it fluently. What makes a show really great is the relationships you gain throughout the process. I will cherish those most of all. The message of the show became deep and important to me, and as time progressed I realize that I did not have to act like Jonas much, for his life had become part of me. I really felt a fatherly care for Tuc, and it became harder to leave him at school every night. But this made the show a stronger and grander experience for me and hopefully others.”

Now enjoy the rest of the interview with these cast members!

1) What life lessons or theatre tips have you learned from being a part of this show? Continue reading

“Taste of Sunrise” Take-aways from Cast Members (Part 1)

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg


Me, joining the cast in a fun photo session right after our first post-show discussion on Thursday, March 17.

Welcome! The performance and attendance for The Taste of Sunrise has been wonderful! I hope you have had a chance to see it! If not, there are still a few more shows left. The last performance is this Saturday, March 26. As we wrap up this unique and inspiring play, I invite you now to read what some of the cast members have to say regarding their experience being in the production. This is the first of two blogs containing these interviews. The next blog will have other members of the cast answering the same questions, so stay tuned!

First, let me introduce you to the remarkable cast members who volunteered to answer my questions. As a way for you to get to know them better, I asked them to describe some of their aspirations, both in and outside of theatre.

1602-28 501 Play the Taste of Sunrise publicity February 16, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4580Ben Featherstone plays the lead role of Tuc.

My biggest goal is to get in Star Wars 9 as a Stormtrooper or a Deaf alien. That’s my biggest goal. Other than that, I hope that there will be opportunities for me to continue acting in front of camera and theatre as well. But I also plan to become a motivational speaker and writer.”



Shawn Kebker plays the role of student in the Central Institute for the Deaf, and the signer for Dr. Grindly Mann.

“I want to get my master’s degree in Social Work. I also want to continue to learn ASL.”


11067522_1005398642803519_1123661122069781057_nSean Worsley plays the role of Tuc’s voice.

My aspirations with regard to acting in general is to continue doing it my entire life. My first love is film acting, with improv and theatre coming in close behind. I’m excited to continue learning at BYU with all of the incredible resources that are here!”


1602-28 508 Play the Taste of Sunrise publicity February 16, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4588Brittni Henretty plays the role of Dr. Alexis Graham.

This show is unlike any other I’ve been a part of. I’ve never had to collaborate with another actor to create one character. I learned so much from working with my signer and now dear friend, Christina, to construct Dr. Graham. We would go through our scenes line by line and discuss how and why Graham would react to what was happening to her. I loved what I learned from that experience about being selfless and giving to my fellow actors in the creative process. I want to take this lesson I’ve learned and apply it to my future performances, as well as my life in general.”

1495434_10205075247419021_6317115832340777623_nDavid Hampton plays the roles of  Dr. Grindly Mann, a hunter, and the signer for Nell Hicks.

“If I see any chance for another role in an ASL play, I will try out. For now, I plan to film myself signing stories from my life.”



1602-28 340 Play the Taste of Sunrise publicity February 16, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4388Abbie Craig plays the role of Maizie.

“I’m a pre-Theatre Arts Education major.  That’s been the plan since I came to school (so, all of my two semesters, I’m still a freshman).  But since doing this play, and since working with some of these amazing people and loving everything about it, I actually want to go on to teach theatre in a Deaf school.  So—yeah, this play has been a pretty huge impact on me.” Continue reading

In March A Tree We Planted. Part 2.

By: Eric Stroud, dramaturg

Last time we discussed Director David Morgan’s usage of a tree in his concept for this show. A representation of “human kind,” the tree is an omen of what might befall those who hold a soft spot for war mongering. However, David’s concept (“any war we have today, is simply evidence that human kind has not learned from its mistakes.”) is not clearly accomplished with just a tree that is center stage.

drkbloodcircleCircles are also an important part in this production of Mother Courage. While the tree may represent “human kind” for David, the circle represents the monotony of human kind’s choices. In this play, killing shows up constantly, in dialogue, implications, and actions. Davod felt that the cyclical cycle of killing that has existed since the dawn of time can easily be represented with a circle.

Additionally, watch as Mother Courage pulls her cart around the tree, over and over. Pay attention to how her lack of progress makes you feel. Does it frustrate you? Did you even notice it? As you watch the show, ask yourself whether or not you agree or disagree with Mother Courage’s choices and write about it in the space allotted in your program.

However, perhaps David draws his circle concept from Brecht’s play on the idea of repetition through dialogue. One of my favorite examples of this comes in the scene proceeding the intermission. Mother Courage’s daughter Katrin has just been attacked. She stumbles into camp with a dazed and downtrodden look to her. Mother Courage makes an attempt at consoling her, but is unsuccessful. In her frustration she exclaims, “curse this war!” However, this exclamation is quickly followed by this line at the start of the next scene, “I won’t have my war all spoiled for me!”

still-a-hypocriteOne second Mother Courage is cursing the war and the next she is claiming it fondly as her own, “my war.” This hypocrisy is Brecht’s showing of repetition. There are countless times in this play where characters act opposite to what they claim. It is easy to see that Davod’s concept draws from this inclusion of confusion by Brecht. It plays on the idea that just as Brecht’s characters never learn, or progress, neither does the human race. Continue reading

In March A Tree We Planted. Part 1.

By: Eric Stroud, dramaturg

(NOTE: Mother Courage and Her Children opened on Friday to a major success. Tickets are still available for other showings, but they are going fast. You can buy them online by visiting this link.)




















This lovely song comes in scene ten of Mother Courage and Her Children. Sung by a farmer and his family, it seems to be a simple ballad of gratitude for a garden in the spring and a house that keeps their family warm in the winter. It is a pretty song, but to be frank, random. When I first heard it, I wondered why would Brecht include it in his play. However, after some research I was surprised by what I found. Lets focus on the planting of the tree for a moment.

A large part of director David Morgan’s concept for this show revolves around a tree that sits center stage.

deadtreeWhen I first spoke to David about his concept for the show, he spoke of how he wanted to emphasize that any war we have today, is simply evidence that human kind has not learned from its mistakes. He wanted his audience to stop and think for a moment about what war has ever actually solved, and whether or not it is ever the answer. When he told me about the tree, I asked him what he wanted it to mean. He sat for a moment and pondered. “It’s human kind,” he finally answered. He went on to tell me that the tree would be a dead one, just as war mongering is the death of the human race. Continue reading

Local Members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community Share Their Stories and Inspiring Messages in the Lobby Display

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

FullSizeRenderHello! Our show is up and running in the Margetts Black Box Theater on the first floor of the Harris Fine Arts Center on campus. Tickets are going fast! We will be having a post-show discussion on Thursday, March 24 around 9:50 pm in the theater, so even if you are not attending that performance, we encourage you to come and stay for that unique opportunity to ask questions to the cast and production team about the creation and performance of this fabulous show.

EXTRA! EXTRA! Did you know that BYU’s production of “The Taste of Sunrise” was in the local news? Click here to read an article about our show, featured in the Deseret News. The article is called. “BYU unites hearing, deaf communities in ‘Taste of Sunrise’.” It is a great interview with tons of insight from cast members, director Julia Ashworth, and stage manager Heather Richardson. This quote from the article encapsulates one of my own observations, which I believe is a major incentive to see this unique piece of theatre:

The shadow signing featured in “The Taste of Sunrise” means that there are two actors for each part — one that speaks vocally and one that signs. “You really do get double the energy and double the emotions because you do have two people for each character,” said stage manager Heather Richardson. “Even if you don’t understand (sign language), it adds so much visually, emotionally. It’s very powerful.”


Video montage of 13 members of the local Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

And not only do you witness two characters in every role – one speaking and one signing. You also have two ways for learning about members of the local Deaf and Hard of Hearing community! In the lobby, you can watch them sign their stories in a video montage, AND read the translations of the signing on the back wall as you wait to enter the theater, as you hang out during intermission, or as you exit the theater at the end of the performance.


Translations of the people in the video montage.

Below are the translations featured on the back wall of the lobby display, just in case you do not have time to read all of them when you attend the show. These people graciously volunteered to share their stories and inspiring messages, just like the character Tuc does throughout the play. It was Julia’s hope that this production could highlight and bring a voice and attention to the often silent members of our community, and to let their messages of hope and identity further enhance the audience’s experience as they follow Tuc on his journey toward an identity and a place to call home. Although Tuc is a fictional character, these people featured in the lobby display are real people in our own community, with powerful messages to share. They can truly empathize with Tuc and help to further emphasize the message of the play: to always focus on people’s abilities rather than any abilities they may lack. I hope their stories through sign and text inspire you the way that have inspired me.

(Note: Below is a  collection of photos I took during the final dress rehearsal last week. To see the faces of the community members, you’ll have to come and see the video!)

IMG_9302Hi, my name is Riley. This is my name sign.  I have become rooted in Deaf Culture because I love sign language.  I feel I can express myself well in sign.  Deaf Culture is awesome for me.  I socialize with a lot of Deaf people, and even though the Deaf Community is small, I feel connected to them.  I have learned a lot from them.  I also enjoy learning from hearing people and experiencing both the Deaf and hearing worlds together.  I enjoy both.

Hi, my name is Jacob.  I am Deaf.  My life is an interesting story.  I was born Deaf.  I have two cochlear implants, but I’ve felt really drawn to being around the signing community and learning ASL.  It has been important in helping many people to be able to understand each other and have good relationships with friends and family, just like God’s community—we are all brothers and sisters.  Thanks.

FullSizeRender_2My name is David.  I am hard of hearing.   I grew up in a family with a father and older brother who are also hard of hearing.    I have always felt I could succeed in life by learning from their examples.  When I was 19, I discovered ASL and started learning it.  I loved it.  I was fascinated.  I felt I could really connect with others.  I had better access, ability to communicate and connection.  That’s why I really love ASL. Continue reading

Welcome to Ware, Illinois! Learning about the Lobby Display

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg


Jonas (Jacob Earnest), Nell Hicks (Katie Jarvis) and Tuc (Ben Featherstone). What a beautiful sunrise in the background, thanks to lighting designer, Mike Kraczek.

We are excited for you to come and see The Taste of Sunrise in the Margetts Black Box Theatre in the BYU Harris Fine Arts Center! The show opens TONIGHT (Friday March 11) and we are selling out, so get yours tickets as soon as possible! This show is amazing!
FullSizeRenderWhen you come to see the play, I invite you to visit the lobby display in front of the theatre entrance. As the dramaturg, I create a display that welcomes you to the show and envelopes you in the world of the play, even before entering the performance space. Creating and assembling the lobby display is one of my favorite jobs as a dramaturg. I have put together some essential props and pictures, along with a very special video featuring local members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. They volunteered to sign their stories and messages of inspiration. The lobby display will also have texts and pictures of the people on the back wallFullSizeRender_2 so that audience members who do not sign can read what is being signed in the video. I love having the text separate from the video so that students and professors who walk down this hall can read the text and be motivated to see the play and become more invested in our Deaf community in Provo.

Here is the lobby display table: Continue reading

Barta Heiner: Talk With A Three-Time Mother Courage

Barta1by Eric Stoud, dramaturg

Not many actresses can say that they have played the role of Mother Courage three times. However, Barta Heiner is not just any actress.

A member of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, Heiner has performed more than 100 roles and directed more than 40 productions. Some of her favorite theatrical roles include Lettice in Lettice and Lovage, Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir, the title role in King Lear, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Mary Whitmer in The Fourth Witness. Her recent roles in film have been Verlene Bennion in Cokeville Miracle and Sergent Major Nedra Rockwell in Once I was a Beehive.

Barta Heiner is on the BFA Acting Committee at BYU, where she teaches acting and directs productions during the theatre season. She received her bachelor’s degree in theatre from BYU and her master’s degree in acting from the American Conservatory Theatre. Upon completing her academic degrees, she acted professionally with the Denver Centre Theatre while both teaching and directing for the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver.

BartaYoungerShe has served as an acting and dialogue coach and consultant on such films as: The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd and Emma Smith, My Story. She also was involved with a student-mentored film project called Diantha’s Crossing, a project inspired by her great, great aunt, Mormon pioneer Diantha Farr Clayton. It has been aired on BYU television.

As busy as she is with this production of Mother Courage, Barta kindly took the time to answer a few of my questions in this short interview:

Eric Stroud: How does it feel to be doing Mother Courage as your last play at BYU before you retire?

Barta Heiner: Honestly, I’m not sure I have had time to think about that…There are about four other shows that I would have rather done.  Shows that were of a lighter vein, but still had pathos and important things to say.  Since we have gone through three versions of “Mother Courage”, it has been a bit of chaos for me trying to memorize lines and forget some of the ones I had already learned.

ES: Having done Mother Courage in the past more than once, what themes or parallels do you find that the director of each production has held in common?

BH: The same theme that Brecht had.  It is a classic anti- war play.  For me the difference between this and the original anti-war play “The Trojan Women” is that Euripides showed “humanity” on both sides.  You saw the loss and pain and suffering of the women of Troy, but you also saw the compassion of the Greek, Talthibius who has to carry all of the messages of “doom” to the women.  “Mother Courage” shows more darkness, irony, stupidity, futility, horror, but it also shows how the people still find humor in their lives in spite of the devastation and hunger around them.  Katrin, who is the only gleam of goodness in the war is silent, yet still finds a way to make a difference by her actions.

ES: What is Mother Courage’s mission to you? Continue reading

Epic Theatre: Honoring Brechtian Alienation with Masks

MCWildby Eric Stroud, dramaturg

RECAP: In my last post, I talked about what the definition of Brechtian Theatre actually is. We discussed that it is an altered version of Epic Theatre. Brecht wanted his audience to “engage” with the theatre on a political level. For Brecht, “engaged” meant that his audience was able to think critically about what they were seeing. According to Brecht, a production succeeded when the audience felt “alienated” from the performance. Brecht called his alienation process Verfremdungseffekt (in America we often refer to it as the V-Effect). Brecht used the V-Effect to jolt the audience from becoming too emotionally involved the production.

I made the statement that the usage of Brechtian was often incorrect because it was being used as a blanket statement for any non-traditional theatre rather than a reference to Brecht’s specific approach to theatre. However, the usage is also often wrong because a lot of what Brecht did with theatre in his day has become common place in modern theatre.

While you will see some Brechtian V-Effect techniques in this production, many have become less effective on a modern audience. Today, tactics like placards and spass are more common and less alienating.  However, Director David Morgan wants his audience to experience that same sense of alienation during his production of Mother Courage, Masks1with the hopes that they will be able to think critically about it. Morgan has chosen to approach his alienation through the usage of character mask.

What is character mask? Character mask is inspired by the 16th century Italian art form of commedia dell’arte. While in commedia there were only masks for characters within two subgroups (servants and masters), in character mask, the number has been extended infinitely. In fact, a character mask can represent anyone. Each character mask is unique to the individual it represents. Actors will hold the mask by their side, but when they put the mask on, they become the character to whom the mask belongs.

Why use character masks? Character masks remind you that you are watching a performance, not real life. Additionally, the masks add to the sadistic elements of human nature that we find in Brecht’s Mother Courage. If you see the show, you will notice that while the actor wears the mask, they take on a persona that is commonplace in the play’s brutal war-time setting. However, when the mask is taken off, they simply become an actor again, reverting back to their normal and natural characteristics.


This contrast between masked character and unmasked actor is so important to Morgan’s accomplishing of Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt. As you watch the show, pay close attention to how it makes you feel when the actors use masks to jump in and out of character throughout the performance. Here are some questions to ask yourself once you have seen the show: Continue reading

Signing Away in Film and Plays: ASL In Other Performances

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

1602-28 009 Play the Taste of Sunrise publicity February 16, 2016 Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322 4015

Photography by: Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo Copyright BYU Photo 2016                                       All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu (801)422-7322

Welcome! Our play opens in less than 2 weeks! Thursday, March 10 is the final dress rehearsal, and patrons are invited to purchase tickets for this performance. Then we officially open on Friday, March 11! We look forward to seeing you there.

As preparation for attending this performance, this blog post includes a list of American Sign Language (ASL) featured in other examples of theatre and film. This will give you some history of ASL in performance and provides many resources if you become interested in learning more about ASL after experiencing The Taste of Sunrise at BYU.

The bulk of this text came from the Educator’s Resource Packet for the third play in this Ware trilogy, The Edge of Peace, produced by the Seattle Children’s Theatre. Click on this link to access the PDF.

Billy Seago

Billy Seago

Let me first introduce Billy Seago. He collaborated with playwright Suzan Zeder on the development of Tuc in all the plays in the trilogy. Here is an excerpt of his interview with Seattle Children’s Theatre in 2013 for The Edge of Peace:

What are some interesting or unusual challenges have faced as a Deaf actor and how do you work with it?

Billy: As a Deaf actor, I normally translate my lines of the script from the English text into American Sign Language for all the plays I am involved with. The Edge of Peace—as well as Mother Hicks and The Taste of Sunrise—were particularly challenging. American Sign Language (ASL) is a unique visual language with its own distinct structure, syntax and grammar. Information is conveyed not in sounds, but with the shape and movement of the hands and other parts of the body, and with facial expressions, including mouthing (making mouth movements without making any sound). ASL has dialects, with variations in signs and movements depending on region, where the signer went to school, who taught him/her ASL, at what age the signer learned ASL and how active the signer is in the Deaf community. So one of my challenges was to ensure that Tuc’s sign choices were based on the region around Ware, Illinois, the […] time period, the lack of fluent signers in Tuc’s early developmental years, the development of his “home signs” (personally invented signs) and his subsequent exposure to ASL at the State School for the Deaf. The sign choices also needed to reflect the natural progression of his sign development as he gained more education. Continue reading

Trying Our Hands at American Sign Language

by Haley Flanders dramaturg

(Psst! Throughout this blog, see if you can learn the signs to these key words mentioned in the play. Now you will recognize them when you come and watch the show!)

10698681_10152534471734601_2639608263078476432_nHello! The Taste of Sunrise cast members have been challenged and encouraged to do research and take part in some American Sign Language (ASL) activities by immersing themselves more in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing culture. Director Julia Ashworth and Ben Featherstone, the actor playing the main character of Tuc, emphasized to the cast that to tell this story right, the cast needs to have a better understanding of the culture they are representing. This is especially crucial since Deaf and Hard of Hearing members of the community have been specifically invited to attend the production. It is not only important that they all learn to sign correctly. They also need to experience the world of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to better grasp how they communicate and socialize through their beautifully visual language of ASL.


Abbie Craig plays Maizie in the show. Here, she is signing the word “home”, which has two parts. You eat at home and you sleep at home, so the hand moves from the mouth to the ear.

As the dramaturg, this has been one of my roles on this production: providing the cast with opportunities and outlets that can gain them more exposure to ASL. So I would like to also provide YOU with some of my research so you can prepare before coming to the show, or explore more about ASL after you see the performance. I provided these links to the cast as part of their actor’s packet at an early rehearsal. Continue reading