by Haley Flanders, dramaturg
Welcome 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.
The 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:
“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!
WHERE 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!