“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

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

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

What to Expect When Watching this Dual-Language Show (ASL and English)

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

ABC's of ASL

Abbie Craig from the cast signs each letter of the American Sign Language Alphabet. Look for this page in your program and try your hand(s) at ASL. Can you spell your name?

The Taste of Sunrise is so unique because it is bilingual; it is performed in American Sign Language and spoken English at the same time. This might seem confusing to produce and to watch. This is how it is done:

If characters (not the actors, but the characters in the play) are Deaf, then they sign their lines while someone (usually another actor who looks like them) stands near them and speaks their lines. This is so that the Hearing audience can understand what is being signed. These characters are called “voice” characters, like “Tuc’s Voice”, played by Sean Worsley.

If a Hearing character is speaking, then another performer stands near them and signs their lines. This is so the Deaf members of the audience can understand what is being said. These performers will be called “ASL performers” in the program and many actors double as named characters in the play and ASL performers for other characters.

So for every character, there are two actors on stage. However, there are certain times when a character speaks and signs at the same time. This means only 1 character needs to be on stage since both Hearing and Deaf audiences can understand the dialogue. Sometimes a Hearing character interprets Tuc by saying his lines aloud while they are having a conversation, so in those instances, a “voice” character is not needed. Continue reading

Part 3 of the Ware Trilogy: “The Edge of Peace”

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

Texas theatre and dance

Poster for the Production by University of Texas Theatre and Dance department

Hello! To continue my trend from my last blog post, where I summarized the first play in the Ware trilogy, Mother Hicks, this blog is about the last play in the trilogy, The Edge of Peace. This was Zeder’s final play as a college professor and was workshopped at the Seattle Children’s Theatre (SCT) like the first two plays in the trilogy. In the play, the setting is Ware in 1945, near the end of WWII. Characters from the previous plays such as Tuc, Mother Hicks, Clovis P. Eudy, Ricky Ricks, Girl, and Maizie (known as Margaret) appear in this play!

Here is a short summary from SCT’s website, when they produced the play in March 2013. To visit the site, click here!

“This touching exploration of community dynamics and the strength of individuals is the final play in an acclaimed trilogy by Suzan Zeder. The series explores the life of Tuc, a Deaf man, as he evolves from the town outcast to a beloved resident. The Edge of Peace is set at the end of World War II, in the small town of Ware, Illinois and centers around Buddy, the younger brother of a soldier at war. A cast of compelling characters – Tuc, a soldier’s worried relatives, an old widow with mysterious ways, and a grown orphan Girl – all seek truth and healing. We witness the power of community as they come to understand what’s behind their façades and long held prejudices.”

The play was also performed at the University of Texas at Austin, where Suzan Zeder worked as the head of the playwriting department. Here is an incredible video and sneak peek into this production, and some insight from Zeder, herself!

Continue reading

Part 1 of the Ware Trilogy: “Mother Hicks” at UVU

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

41dSbc1FfpL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Hello! Recently, many of the cast and crew for The Taste of Sunrise went to Utah Valley University in Orem to see their production of Mother Hicks. No, it’s not a coincidence they were doing this play! Here is Professor John Newman’s director’s note in the program:

Mother Hicks is one of three plays written by Suzan Zeder that are known collectively as The Ware Trilogy. All three plays were commissioned and premiered by the Seattle Children’s Theatre. As they were published, each won the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE). The Ware Trilogy is a landmark in children’s dramatic literature.

Mother Hicks is set in the 1930’s, its prequel The Taste of Sunrise in the 1920’s, and its sequel The Edge of Peace in the 1940’s. Tuc, Girl, Mother Hicks, and Clovis P. Eudy appear in all three. Ricky Ricks, introduced in Mother Hicks, becomes a central character in the sequel (The Edge of Peace).

UVU's production of Mother Hicks. Photography credit: Scott E. Twitchell.

UVU’s production of Mother Hicks. Photography credit: Scott E. Twitchell.

Utah Valley University is collaborating with Brigham Young University to present the full trilogy to Utah Valley audiences this year. BYU’s production of The Taste of Sunrise runs March 10-26. Participants at the March 25-26 AATE Theatre in Our Schools (TIOS) event at BYU will see UVU’s staged reading of Mother Hicks, BYU’s production of The Taste of Sunrise, and UVU’s staged reading of The Edge of Peace. UVU will present a student-directed production of The Edge of Peace at UVU in May. For more information, see the Noorda Center’s blogsite, http://noordatheatrecenter.com.

-John Newman

UVU’s dramaturg on the production, Daniel Bunker, was also an actor in the show. He played the role of Hosiah Ward, Girl’s foster father. As the dramaturg, he provided a very helpful and educational study guide, which I will pull from and quote throughout some of my blogs, I’m sure. He gives the history of American Sign Language (ASL) and talks about Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc, who established the American School for the Deaf in 1817. I recognized the last name Gallaudet because in my research for the program, I found an ASL font called Gallaudet. It’s really cool! It looks like this… Continue reading

Introduction: Wake Up and Savor “The Taste of Sunrise”!

by Haley Flanders, dramaturg

SelfieWelcome to the blog for BYU’s upcoming production of The Taste of Sunrise. I am excited to be the dramaturg for this unique and powerful production, written by renown playwright Suzan L. Zeder and directed by Julia Ashworth, head of the BYU Theatre Education program. The show runs March 11-26 in the Margetts Black Box Theater in the Harris Fine Arts Center on campus.

A bit about me: I graduated with my MA in theatre from BYU in December and am an elementary school drama specialist. I was the dramaturg for The Fisherman and His Wife in the fall of 2014.
Old Map of IllinoisThe Taste of Sunrise is a very special play, and will probably be unlike any play you have seen before. It centers on the story of a boy named Tuc as he grows up during the years of 1917 and 1928 in a little rural town called Ware, Illinois. The play takes place Tuc’s mind and memory, showcasing his experiences as a Deaf boy during the Great Depression. The play features scenes of him losing his hearing as baby, learning to communicate with his father Jonas Tucker and other hearing folk in the town, making friends such as Maizie and Roscoe at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, and ultimately trying to find his identity and place to call home. This play is unique because the ENTIRE production is signed and spoken (one actor signs, another speaks), and some of the cast members, namely the actor playing Tuc, are actually Deaf or hard of hearing in real life. In, fact, this is a requirement of the play – the actor who plays Tuc must actually be Deaf. Playwright Zeder states in defense of this requirement:


Playwright Suzan L. Zeder

“It is the difference between someone copying choreographed movements and someone dancing in the language of their soul … It sign language is to have dramatic impact it must have meaning; it must be real and specific if it is to have emotional eloquence and physical poetry.”  –Author’s Notes to Mother Hicks (pg. 5)

New actor, Ben Featherstone, will play the role of Tuc. Look forward to interviews from him and two cast members who are hard of hearing, David Hampton (who plays Dr. Grindly Mann and other characters) and Jason Keeler (who plays Roscoe). Many of the other cast members are fluent in ASL or have taken classes at BYU. Look for upcoming blogs that will highlight the Deaf culture and the power of ASL in performance, and will educate on how to sign certain words or phrases from the show!

sunrise over barnWHERE DID THE TITLE COME FROM? 

This play first premiered exactly 20 years ago (1996) at the Seattle Children’s Theatre. The title came from a pertinent line in the play which preceded it, entitled Mother Hicks, written in 1986. Tuc feels as if people are only judging him for his disability and not paying attention to all of his abilities. He poetically claims,

“You look at me and only see the things I cannot do, thing I cannot be; But I can taste the cool spring water and know what month it is. I can smell the difference between the smoke of hickory and apple wood. I can see the sharp sting of honey, and I can taste the sunrise.”

What vivid imagery, capturing how powerful the senses are to our understanding of the world around us. As you learn about this play on this blog and attend the show later in March, I implore you to think about your own abilities and limitations, and how this play seeks to empower those with disabilities through the always captivating medium of live theatre. I hope you will return to read more about ASL culture, our progress of putting together this production, the playwright, this remarkable trilogy (yes, this story is actually made up of 3 plays, this being the 2nd installment) and much more! Continue reading