CREATIVE PEAKS: Quiet Cues

By on February 23, 2016

New Riot Act production delves into communication folly.

The cast of Riot Act’s latest production, ‘Tribes’ will have audiences thinking twice about the way we interact with one another. (Photo: riot act)

The cast of Riot Act’s latest production, ‘Tribes’ will have audiences thinking twice about the way we interact with one another. (Photo: riot act)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There’s always nerves when starting a new show, but directing “Tribes,” by Nina Raine, had a new set of challenges for Macey Mott. She worried how she would communicate with her actors.

“Tribes” is a seriocomedy about human communication. Billy is born deaf in a hearing family. He’s adapted to his family’s unconventional ways, but they’ve never tried to understand him. It’s not until he meets a woman on the brink of deafness that he finally understands what it means to be understood.

The Riot Act board discovered the show while searching award-winning new plays. “Tribes” stood out. It was well written and rich, Mott said. The board was drawn to the story and the characters.

“The story and characters really resonated with us,” Mott said. “It reminds us of how we need to communicate better, in general.”

To do the show justice, Mott knew she needed a deaf actor for the character of Billy. Casting a hearing actor for the role would have been offensive to the deaf community, as well as detrimental to the show, she said.  Mott searched locally, but finally had to expand her search to a national level. That’s when she found Michelle Mary Schaefer. Mott brought her in from Rochester, New York.

Schaefer does the character of Billy justice even though she’s a female playing a boy’s role, Mott said.

Mott also had to find a way to teach the cast sign language. Dawn Webster, an instructor at Dancers’ Workshop, who also has a background in sign language, worked with Schaefer and the cast to get the signing right. The show uses spoken word, sign language, surtitles and captioning.

Mott hopes people learn that deafness is less of a handicap, and more of a culture.

“I hope they recognize the need to connect and communicate with other people, whether verbally or not,” she said.

The cast includes Scott Willis who plays Christopher, Deborah Supowit as Beth, Lace Lukas as Ruth, Frankie McCarthy as Daniel, Killian White as Silvia, and Schaefer as Billy. PJH

Riot Act Inc.’s production of “Tribes” Thursday through Saturday at Dancers’ Workshop’s Studio No. 1. Curtain at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15, $12 students/seniors.

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