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2015-2016 Season

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!)


Hello! 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.[/caption] 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.

I encouraged the students to attend the ASL clubs of local universities. The best link for these is the Facebook page, since it has up-to-date information.


Ben Featherstone plays Tuc. Here, he is signing the word "sunrise". It also has two parts. It shows the sun rising.


Local Ward for the Deaf: Utah Valley Ward                                   

Ben attends this ward. Also, many of the cast members have also been to this ward to gain more exposure and connection to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing culture.

  • Address: 888 South Freedom Blvd, Provo, UT, 84601
  • Phone: (801) 370-6832 VP
  • Sunday Schedule: 11:00 am–2:00 pm (Sac mtg, SS, PH/RS)


David Hampton plays Dr. Grindly Mann in the show, along with some other characters. He is signing the word "wind", which also has two parts. You spread out your fingers, tuck in your thumb, and move your hands back and forth to indicate wind motion.

  1. Address: 5709 South 1500 West, Taylorsville, UT 84123-5217



There are so many great links, pictures, and videos here! For example, above is a picture of an early 20th century image of the LDS Deaf Ward in Ogden, Utah. It is featured on many different sites, including the Deaf History in the LDS Church Facebook page (the link is in the list below).


Jason Keeler plays Roscoe in the show. Here, he is signing the word "bird", which also has 2 parts. You open your thumb and forefinger to indicate the bird's beak.[/caption]


    • BYU ASL COURSES: I told the students that if they are not already taking ASL classes, perhaps they could sit in and observe one of these courses, emailing the professor ahead of time that they will be coming and the reason behind it.
    • Here is the link to the BYU ASL classes for this school year. This is GREAT knowledge if YOU are looking to take any ASL classes at BYU in the future.


    To end this blog post, here are some fun facts about American Sign Language. Click on the source link for a list of even more awesome research sites!

    1. American Sign Language (ASL) is the third most widely used language in the U.S., after English and Spanish.
    2. A form of ASL has been used in the U.S. for over two hundred years.
    3. Many people with hearing impairments communicate by using ASL, which combines hand signs, gestures, and facial expressions to create words and sentences. As many as 500,000 people in the U.S. communicate using ASL.
    4. Different countries have different sign languages. ASL also has regional and dialectal differences depending on age, gender, culture, and more. There are thousands of different sign languages, approximately 6,000.
    5. Modern-day ASL didn’t come from England. It came from France, which is why French Sign Language is similar to American Sign Language. England has its own version of signed language which is very different from ASL, known as Modern British Sign Language.
    6. Sign languages have their own grammar and syntax.
    7. People acquire sign language in the same way they acquire spoken languages.
    8. One sign in sign language can have multiple meanings.
    9. Thomas Edison was a hearing impaired inventor who filed thousands of patents for his inventions.
    10. Beethoven was a famous German composer and pianist who was also hearing impaired.
    11. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, helped advance communication for the hearing impaired.
    12. ASL is considered a foreign language.

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