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'Secret Garden' Production A Sign Of The Times

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Triangle audiences will be able to see a play through the eyes of the deaf.Starting Friday, the

Raleigh Little Theatre

will host the American Sign Language version of "The Secret Garden."

"The Secret Garden" is a story about the Earth and the human spirit. Now it is being told in a language everyone can understand.

"I think because it has such a strong visual component, people will be fascinated to see how gestures, signs and facial expressions -- which are a very big part of American Sign Language -- ties into characters and how stories can be told visually," said Sam Parker, the play's director.

For Parker, the son of deaf parents, ASL was his first language. Now he is bringing the art of communication to the stage for deaf people across the state.

"They're so excited, because it is so rare for them to see, that they're traveling in groups. We're getting large groups coming from long distances to see the show," he said.

Groups from Greensboro, Morganton and Wilson are expected to travel to Raleigh to see the show.

Unlike most performances where sign language serves as a back-up to spoken dialogue, in this production, the languages switch roles. It is the voicing actors who tuck away into the background.

Ann Donnelly is one of seven deaf actors in the play.

"Deaf people have the sense just like hearing people do," she signed. "The only thing we cannot do is hear."

Carlie Huberman, a hearing actor, said it took four weeks to learn how to sign her lines.

Whether deaf or hearing, "The Secret Garden" is a play for everyone.

The opening night performance is sold out. The play runs through May 24.

"The Secret Garden" marks Raleigh Little Theatre's third show in four years performed simultaneously in ASL and English.


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