by Haley Flanders, dramaturg
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.
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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?
Ben F: “Everything’s awesome, everything’s cool when you’re a part of the team. Everything’s awesome! Everything’s cool when you’re living a dream!” -Lego Movie. I learned how to be a team player, how to stay happy, and how to empathize with other people better than ever before.
Shawn K: I gained a better understanding of Deaf culture. I have also gained a great deal of respect for theater.
Sean W: Regardless of the language, while communication can be difficult at times it is worth working at for all of the beautiful moments people ultimately get to share.
Brittni H: I think one of the themes of The Taste of Sunrise is learning to understand someone else’s point of view despite our differences. Our cast is comprised of such a brilliant variety of people: We come from diverse backgrounds, we are studying very different majors. We each see, hear and understand the world in our own unique way. Yet all of us have become such good friends as we’ve worked together to bring this story to life. I have learned so much from them and this show about the importance and beauty in taking the time to really get to know a person.
David H: I learn that being in theater is hard work. There are a lot happening behind the scene to bring a play to life.
2) What do you hope the audience takes away from witnessing this show?
Ben F: I hope they take something that will change their lives, it doesn’t matter what they take away. But I want them specifically to remember how awesome the Deaf community is. But on a serious, more spiritual note: I pray that everyone who comes to the show can learn to always have hope in midst of trials and hardship.
Shawn K: I hope that they will want to develop better communication with their loved ones.
Sean W: It doesn’t matter what backgrounds people come from, friendship and connection are the most important things we can cultivate in this life.
Brittni H: I hope our audiences walk away feeling motivated and empowered to be a force for good in the world; I want them to feel like they can be as loving as Nell, as forgiving as Jonas and as brave as Tuc.
David H: I hope the audience will gain a better understanding of the Deaf community. I hope they understand the importance of American Sign Language with deaf children and education.
Abbie C: This play is so much about finding where you belong and recognizing and understanding that you do belong. That, to me, was expressed through this beautiful story and brought to life through Julia’s directing and the rehearsal process. We became a family, we had a place of healing where we belonged. This play is also about light, and clinging to that light and that hope. I hope and pray that the audience comes away feeling those things. Feeling like you can and need to find belonging, light, and hope, and hold onto those things. Once you “belong to yourself,” and have those things, you can share those with others. You can help them belong. You can bring light to others. One of the most touching things that I’ve experienced though this play was after we performed for children from a school for the Deaf. They filmed video responses for us, telling us what parts they loved and how the story touched them. Then we also got responses from parents who came that day. Those are what got me. Parents thanked us for helping them understand their children better. They said that after seeing this play, they want to learn sign to communicate with their children. I couldn’t believe that there were actually parents who couldn’t communicate with their children. To be able to share that perspective and that beautiful story with them was such a moving experience.
3) What were some of your favorite and/or most challenging parts about being in this show?
Ben F: Some of my most favorite and the most challenging part of the show was becoming Tuc. Everyone in the play, especially Julia Ashworth and Sarah Leathers, had to take a lot of time teaching me how to allow Tuc to bloom inside of Ben Featherstone, and let him out. It was amazing experience.
Shawn K: I really enjoy interpreting for Dr.Mann when he is angry.
Sean W: The responsibility of sitting and watching Tuc, trying to mimic his emotions, body language, and acting choices with MY voice is a difficult task. Not just because of the distance with him being ons take and me sitting in the aisles, but because normally actors think things like, “What am I going to do to help portray that?” and instead I need to think “How is Ben interpreting this scene, and what is he going to to share it with the audience?” and then I get to try and mimic that. It really is becoming his voice, and checking my own personality at the door.
Brittni H: For me, one of the most challenging parts of this show was developing the character of Dr. Graham. This woman has such a different demeanor than my own. At first it felt so unnatural (and a little uncomfortable) to say her lines and do the things she does on stage. I didn’t want to be such a mean person! I came to realize, however, that Graham’s unsavory sternness plays an important role in telling Tuc’s story. Without an accurate portrayal of her as an opposing force in his life, the audience could not fully understand the true ugliness of Tuc’s struggles, and thereby could not fully understand the true beauty in Tuc’s triumphs. Once I understood that, I came to love Dr. Graham as well as being her on stage.
David H: I enjoy being an actor. One challenge was being three different characters with various personality for each one. Another challenge was to match my voice’s facials and emotions when I was signing for her.
Abbie C: I loved this whole process. It was incredibly life-changing and such a beautiful experience. I can’t imagine my life without it. Honestly. The biggest challenge, for me, was how much time I put into this show. I’m currently in ASL 102— a beginning level sign language class. My character has been signing fluently her entire life. So, I spent hours and hours outside of rehearsals learning my signs for my lines. I loved it! And it was a LOT of work.