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MEDIA RELEASE
Harbourfront Centre


TORONTO, April 10, 2006ASL Showcase in association with Harbourfront Centre present a uniquely creative theatrical revue featuring seven dynamic short pieces of drama and comedy performed in American Sign Language and English. Performances take place Sunday, April 30, 2 pm, and on Monday, May 1, 7pm, 2006 in the Studio Theatre located at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto.

ASL Showcase serves to demonstrate to the public and arts community this pioneering form of performance, designed to inspire the community and create a first-ever sign language theatre in Canada, initiating professional opportunities for Deaf artists in the arts. ASL Showcase is comprised of seven short pieces over 90 minutes that incorporate mime, comedy and spoken English simultaneously. The ASL Showcase features a number of Canadian actors who perform in sign, voice and gestures.

Hosts of the ASL Showcase include comedians Shari Barcarz and Christopher Welsh. The featured Canadian performers include: Jack Racanelli, David Hamen, Regent Gendron, Lucia Jackson, Mike Cyr, Jo Bennett, Amanda Richer, Hudd Stone, Natasha Bacchus, Jamilla Ross and David Petrie. This highly unique event is directed by PJ Hammond and produced by Joanna Bennett.

The ASL Showcase is a pioneering advocacy effort founded by Joanna Bennett and assisted through the efforts and expertise of Harbourfront Centre. ASL Showcase is also pleased to acknowledge the generous support of Equity Showcase Theatre, Picasso Pro and studio lab theatre foundation. This event provides a unique opportunity for the general public, the Deaf community and professional industry to experience a compelling and innovative theatrical form. ASL Showcase anticipates solid support from industry and community colleagues and their organizations for a continued awareness and growth of sign language theatre and the incorporation of its performers in the mainstream.

Deaf culture and its artistic practice already receives lively support in many theatre centres throughout the United Kingdom, the USA, and worldwide. This effort is designed with a vision to establish Canada’s own Deaf theatre.


These artists aspire to form a permanent theatre company in Canada, with a goal to commission original work, create accessible training in acting and technical fields and provide jobs for Deaf people in the arts. ASL Showcase is designed to cultivate mutual support from and inclusion by each community.


Sunday’s performance is preceded by an ASL-interpreted tour of the recently opened York Quay Gallery installations and followed by a post-performance discussion with the artists in the Studio Theatre. On Monday evening a brief presentation/reception for industry patrons, friends, general public and guests will take place after the performance in the Marilyn Brewer Community Space in Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Centre, adjacent from the Studio Theatre.


Tickets are $11.00 (plus applicable facility renewal fee and service charges) and can be purchased through the Harbourfront Centre Box Office by phone 416-973-4000, email tickets@harbourfrontcentre.com or fax at
416 954-0366. Ticket order forms and information available at www.harbourfrontcentre.com or
416-973-4000.

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Media contact:
ASL Showcase
Harbourfront Centre: Bill Bobek, Media Relations 416-973-4428
wbobek@harbourfrontcentre.com
























Additional programme and participant information:

ASL SHOWCASE – Programme and Plays

BANANANAA
Written by: Dawn Nearing
Performed by: Regent Gendron & David Hamen
(signed with voice interpretation)

Two men – two egos. They find a banana. Who owns it? Who wants it? What will each one do to get it?

ALMOST
Written by: Krista Dalby
Performed by: Michael Cyr & Lucia Jackson
(signed with voice interpretation)

Life is rolling past two young professionals as they work at the same office everyday. While they take things for granted, the two discuss how it would be nice to encounter love and they do find it – almost.


ANGEL vs DEVIL
Written by: Joanna Bennett
Performed by: David Petrie, Jack Racanelli and Jo Bennett
(signed and spoken simultaneously)

Bob (age 30) is inexperienced with the world. While still living in his Mother’s basement, he chats on line and encounters a woman he would like to meet. Unknown to Bob, there is an Angel and a Devil on each shoulder to advise him with regards to this endeavour. Problem is, they can’t agree…

ROAD BLOCK
Written by : Caitlin Morris-Cornfield
Performed by : Natasha Bacchus and Jami Ross
(gestured – no voice)

Two strangers meet in a neighbourhood as they encounter a roadblock. What must they do together to get around it?

[Intermission]

BRANDI
Written by: Bobby del Rio
Performed by: Amanda Richer and Hudd Stone
(signed with voice interpretation)

A young woman enjoys a routine life that is detailed by a narrator. Suddenly, everything is interrupted and she struggles with incorporating something potentially wonderful into her life. But what effect does this have on the narrator of her story? What does he have to say about the situation?


ITALIAN MAN
Created & Performed by : Jack Racanelli
(gesture w/ no voice)

In a local family-run Italian restaurant, the owner delights his patrons with old world charm. However, as he enters the kitchen, he transforms into desperate a character who’s life depends on the elaborate details of each and every dish.

GROUP PHOTO
Created by: Jamilla Ross
Performed by: The Company
(signing and gestures - no sound or voice)

A purely visual piece, the ensemble gathers to form a group photo. As time freezes, we see intricate details about the very different lives of 3 deaf people that the viewer can’t fathom from a two dimensional image.




Producer: Joanna Bennett
Joanna Bennett has been in front of and behind the camera
since 1989. As a member of ACTRA, Jo currently has a
position on the performers' union Toronto council and is
active on their diversity committee.

Jo started to learn sign in 1990 because "as an actor, you
are encouraged to pick up a skill that makes you unique".
She spent two and a half years picking up the language and
after meeting interpreters in the Deaf community, Jo
decided to go back to school to create a concurrent career
and in 1996 became a freelance interpreter in Toronto.

After attending the "Interpreting on Broadway" program at
the famed Juilliard school in New York city, Joanna created
TIRG, Theatrical Interpreting Resource Group, to assist
performance companies with providing theatrical
interpreting and to develop an untapped patronage. Jo
herself has performed across Toronto for such theatres as
Canstage, Shakespeare in the Rough, Lorraine Kimsa,
Soulpepper, The Berkeley, Talk is Free Theatre and Theatre
Direct Canada.








Director: PJ Hammond:
PJ Hammond graduated from the Theatre Performance program at George Brown College. She is current President and Executive Producer for the Alumnae Theatre Company. Directing credits include She Stoops To Conquer, Alumnae Theatre; Lear’s Daughters (LA premiere), Counter Productions, The Road To Mecca, Blackwater Productions; The Attic, The Pearls and 3 Fine Girls, Alumnae Theatre; Beans ’N’ Butts, New Ideas Festival 2001; Talley’s Folly, Alumnae Theatre


Amanda Richer
Originally having goals to be a jockey, missionary worker, WNBA player and rancher, Amanda Richer would never have guessed that she'd consider pursuing acting professionally. That all changed at the age of 12. After starring in a number of productions at her elementary school and having always enjoyed performing, Amanda decided to follow up on a newspaper advertisement asking for actors in upcoming films and television shows. Things didn't go the way she expected them to and Amanda gave up acting all together. That was until an incredibly inspirational teacher pushed her to audition for the role of Kendra in TVO's DeafPlanet. Amanda landed the part in 2002, and has been seriously pursing the art and industry of acting since. Currently enrolled in her 2nd year in the Acting for Film and Television program at Toronto's Humber College, Amanda Richer is very eager to continue learning about acting in every way possible. She is tremendously in love with what she is doing, and she thanks God for this remarkable and wonderful opportunity.

Christopher Welsh
Christopher Welsh is an energetic positive Deaf role model. He is a performer who had been entertaining audiences young and old alike for many years. He trained with the National Theatre of the Deaf in Chester, Connecticut, USA in 1984 and also studied improvisation at Second City in Toronto, Ontario in 1988. In the same year, Christopher was the first Deaf Canadian comedian to perform before a hearing audience at Yuk-Yuk’s in Toronto. He was involved in “Comedia Dell'Art” 1987, “The Magic Hands”1989 and a far north Ontario tour for two weeks, all with A Show of Hands Theatre.

From 1989 to present, Christopher, through his company, Vibrisign, has taken his one man show on the road. He has traveled across Canada to various schools and festivals performing for children and adults of all ages performing several skits which he has created using puppets and mime.

Also Christopher has appeared on the television show, “DeafPlanet” (TVO) and YTV’s treehouse program in 1999 which featured ASL Storytelling. Presently he is studying theatre arts at York University.

Mike Cyr
Mike has worked with DeafPlanet in 2005 taking a role in one of their episodes. He took another role as a sport newscaster on the deafplanet.com 'Sports Village' website.
He currently is studying film at Ryerson University and works at Silent Voice. In his spare time he tries entertaining his granny...if not annoying her.

Lucia Jackson
Lucia was born to Deaf parents and an older sister, Jennifer. She is a graduate of York University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2003 - her major in Geography. She
also graduated from York University's Faculty of Education and Deaf Education in 2004 and 2005 respectively. After studying in university for six years, she finally started working with children as a full-time teacher last Fall.

Lucia's first acting experience was with Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye for a role in 2002 as "Pam". She found the experience exciting and rewarding. She also co-performed the Canadian version of Gallaudet University's well-known "Bison Song" at Deaf Ontario Now: 15 Years Later Gala in 2004.

As a member of the committee Eye On Camera! she enjoys working with various stakeholders in expanding the network and support system in the Deaf community for Deaf and hard of hearing film and television actors.

Hudd Stone

Hudd has been acting in home videos during his childhood and teen years and he made imitation films of Predator, Clockwork Orange (called it Clockwork Apple) and Arachnophobia. They were short films big in fun, laughs to watch and make. He has studied fine arts and photography atYork university.
One day Hudd wants an upholstery crew of his own and make low budget films on the side for fun to keep up with his childhood hobbies.


David Hamen

David had a small principal role on CTV’s “The Associates” as Mr. Horowitz in “A HEARTS DESIRE”
He has also performed in an independent film, as Abel (Brother of Cain), called “GRIST”. David also has experience as a sign language tutor and script consultant on the television show, “SOUL FOOD”.

Jack Racanelli

Jack Racanelli, a student at York University, recently performed in his first movie, a student film called “The Big Blind”. At York he has taken two acting courses at York called “Acting for Non-Majors” and “Physical Aspects of Theatre”. It is safe to say that those two classes taught him something he never realized existed: the craft of acting. He has performed his own “Italian Man” in a Picasso Pro launch as well as the play “Angel vs Devil” for a gala Deaf event; both roles he will reprise for the ASL Showcase.

David Petrie (ACTRA)
David was last seen in 'Cabaret' (Sudbury Theatre Centre) playing Ernst, as well as his clarinet in the pit band. Other roles include the title role in 'Macbeth' and Don Pedro in 'Much Ado About Nothing' (SBTS), Cameron in 'The Foursome' (Regent Theatre), Edgar Linton in 'Wuthering
Heights' (Theatre Aquarius) and Sebastian Mann in 'Mephisto' (Equity Theatre Showcase). He recently acted in two short films 'Talk, Talk, Talk' and 'The Letter'. David also explored the other side of the camera in classes at Ryerson University where his short 'The Dinner' won a Continuing Education-Award of Merit.

Shari Bancarz
Shari Bancarz - deaf since baby. Really enjoy acting, enjoy telling funny stories. “I was born with comedy, I like to play pranks and practical jokes - I like to see people laugh. I was involved in acting in my early days. People are too serious…life is too short."





Regent Gendron

Regent was born in the non-deaf community. Nobody ever heard him speaking but they always understand him by his unique way of communication. He would mime, act out and be dramatic. Thanks to these skills, he always got what he wanted for Christmas!

During weekends, he would spent time with his hearing friends. They would all sit down and watch his mime and drama. They laughed so hard and wet their pants but never sue him for dry-cleaning bills.

He recently performed a routine at Yuk Yuk’s downtown Toronto. Regent will do anything to be on stage!

Jamilla Ross

Jami has a bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre Gallaudet University (2003)
Her stage experience there includes: “Nine Lives”, “The Emperor’s New Clothing”, “Patches”, and “Show Me Whatcha Got?” With the company A Show of Hands she performed in “Which Witch is Which?” and “The Paper Bag Princess”.
Her film and television credits include: Deaf Planet (TVO), Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye (CTV) and My New Life (Paramount). She has also appeared in a Body Break commercial.

Natasha Bacchus

Natasha is a full time student at GBC studying to become an assaulted women & children Counsellor Advocate. She was a gold and silver medallist sprinter at two Deaf Olympics. Her passion is running and being advocate to support the Deaf community to break down barriers.
This is her first theatrical acting experience and she looks forward to the challenge and to see sign language theatre thrive in Canada!

Joanna Bennett (ACTRA)

Jo has appeared in several movies: John Q, Superstar and the upcoming Rexx The Firehouse Wonderdog. Her television credits include: This is Wonderland, DOC, Sue Thomas FBEye and The Associates. But most would recognize her from her commercial work on television as the Mom for Nutella, Robitussin, Sony, Pizza Hut and Staples. Jo has interpreted many theatrical shows with Canstage, Talk is Free Theatre, Theatre Direct Canada and the Lorraine Kimsa to list a few. Last year she ventured to Rochester to be a voice performer in the signed production of Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Panara Theatre. Producing the ASL Showcase has been a dream of many – now that it is a reality, sign language theatre will finally have a place to grow in this great country.






ASL Showcase Founder-Producer:
Joanna Bennett has been in front of and behind the camera since 1989. As a member of ACTRA, Jo currently has a position on the performers' union Toronto council and is active on their diversity committee.

Jo started to learn sign in 1990 because "as an actor, you are encouraged to pick up a skill that makes you unique". She spent two and a half years picking up the language and after meeting interpreters in the Deaf community, Jo decided to go back to school to create a concurrent career and in 1996 became a freelance interpreter in Toronto.

After attending the "Interpreting on Broadway" program at the famed Juilliard school in New York city, Joanna created TIRG, Theatrical Interpreting Resource Group, to assist performance companies with providing theatrical interpreting and to develop an untapped patronage. Jo herself has performed across Toronto for such theatres as Canstage, Shakespeare in the Rough, Lorraine Kimsa, Soulpepper, The Berkeley, Talk is Free Theatre and Theatre Direct Canada.

Unfortunately, back in the camera business, productions learned of her skill and started asking her to portray Deaf persons on screen! Knowing that is was inappropriate (she notes that there are many performers out there who are deaf and she won't compete with them until the opportunities are equal), Jo did what professional actors unnaturally do -
she turned down the roles.

However, a dialogue opened regarding performers who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing and the issue became where to find them, how to communicate and do they have professional experience? With a small group of Deaf actors, Jo created EOC, "Eyes on Camera!", a committee dedicated to liaising with casting directors, providing a workbook of photos and resumes of Deaf and hard-of-hearing performers.

Stephanie Gorin casting particularly made use of this service for several years when casting for the show Sue Thomas, FBEye, a story about a deaf woman working for the secret service. "Stephanie and her team took the time to find performers who are are Deaf and production hired interpreters to facilitate communication through the casting process". The next question was, who out there has talent?

Historically, many being barred from getting professional training, performers who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing have gained experience through tv/film projects and creating their own live shows over the years. But the majority of the community is prevented from creating a traditional resume due to communication barriers in classes and workshops and traditional casting practices of only hiring Deaf to play deaf roles. "There is no reason why non-descript roles have to always be given to speaking people. The Mom, the receptionist, the love interest..why not have that character be signing? Writers, directors and casting must envision their characters as reflecting today's society with a variety of cultural backgrounds, such as Deaf." Jo is proud to see ACTRA taking a strong stand on supporting it's diverse members in the industry
and particularly the union's approach to seeking ways to create opportunities for their performers with
disabilities. "I think most folks get it now; it doesn't make sense to hire a hearing actor to play a deaf role."

But hey, why wait for the performance industry to create stories to fit deaf people into? "I know Deaf people have been creating their own stories for years. Art finds a way." The ASL Showcase is designed to generate interest and therefore to create a professional sign language theatre company in Toronto. Not only will this future group mount unique productions in sign language for the general public to enjoy but they plan to provide training in the areas of performance, technical and writing and therefore workshop
various Deaf theatrical projects. (written by Deaf, about Deaf, for Deaf) "The United States houses several sign language theatre and Deaf theatre programs - we'd like to bring their professional crew and staff up here to teach (or perhaps mentor back in the States) in their first language of sign so that this new company can create and administer work in Toronto. "It is an established concept in the States. We have such a creative and eager work force here - it is time for Canada to be proud of her own".
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