Catherine Rush's play "The Loudest Man on Earth" is part of The TheatreWorks New Works Festival and took us to California this month: me, Mom as babysitter extraordinaire, and our little guy. We hopped on a plane and headed west. We rehearsed several full days, put up "performance/reading 1" and then went back to rehearsal for a few more full days and put up "performance/reading 2" - the idea being that the writer could get feedback/impulses via watching the first "performance/reading" and then go back to the drawing board, if need be, and churn out changes for the next chance on stage. The trick with this beautiful play is that "reading" it is awfully challenging considering so much of the text is in American Sign Language - or a kind of "visual sign" that makes it easier for non-signers to understand what is being "said" in this gestural vocabulary. We did most of it off-book so I think for the most part, the binders disappeared and it popped to life.
I play Haylee, who falls in love with a deaf man - and as a hearing woman, who signs only a bit, I need to get up to speed in the signing world to keep up. (Art imitating life on the sign-front, for sure.) The amazing thing about this love story is that while it seems to be about something very specific - a relationship between a deaf man and a hearing woman - it ultimately zooms out and becomes a play about love in general. Who doesn't have hurdles to get over in relationships? Which pair doesn't come from different worlds? Don't we all have blindspots? And things we don't hear or don't want to hear? As Haylee, I found my struggle, once I got the signs down (an awesome experience in re-remembering the bits of sign language I knew and learning some fresh) was to give my partner as much space as he needs to be himself - to not try to "translate" for him constantly, while putting my own spin on his words... To stay grounded in myself and trust we'll each pull our own weight - not to over-do or take care of his "deafness" - powerful lessons in not always trying to make it better or palatable - something Haylee struggles with... and so much of what I wrestle with in life too.
The intuitive and wonderful director Pamela Berlin led us through the week and Cassidy Brown and Mia Tagano joined us from the west coast. Adrian Blue plays Jordan, my love in the play. What a talented group. In leaving this project, (for now, who knows where it will go next) I am struck by how much I love the world of sign, how I want to listen listen listen more, and how important it is to just let each other - and ourselves - be.