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New York Deaf Theatre marks 35 years with 'Jekyll and Hyde'

New York Deaf Theatre marks 35 years with 'Jekyll and Hyde'
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The New York Deaf Theatre company is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a production of ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’.

Performed by a cast of deaf and hearing actors, it is JW Guido’s fourth production as artistic director.

“It looks like any other theatre production except there is sign language on stage. Everything else, we basically keep to theatre tradition,” Guido said.

For the audition process, two people were cast for each role – a deaf actor using sign language and a hearing actor simultaneously speaking the lines.

The dual roles presented additional challenges for the actors, requiring strong teamwork.

“I guess one of the challenges would be working with the voice actors because when you’re signing, the voices have to match the timing of the signs and the style. And that definitely takes extra rehearsals, it’s not easy,” said Guido.

Robert DeMayo, who has been acting for 30 years, plays the lead role. He says it is tough for deaf actors on the job market because there are fewer companies and opportunities for deaf actors in TV and film.

“Very hard. As a deaf actor, in the past it actually used to be easier. There were several deaf theatre companies, more than there are now. There has been a lot of funding cuts for the arts, of course, which makes it harder for everyone, and that makes it increasingly harder for deaf actors. So it’s harder to find a job. I happen to be fortunate to be able to do this,” he explained.

‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ by the New York Deaf Theatre company is on now at the June Havoc Theatre in New York City.