CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Some advocates and members of the deaf community in Cedar Rapids want a deaf actor — not a person who can hear — to play the role of a deaf person in a community theater’s production.
At a public forum Tuesday, Theatre Cedar Rapids officials were criticized for the casting the hearing person and were asked to delay the Oct. 21 opening of the play, “Tribes,” so the part can be recast, or to cancel the production.
Cedar Rapids Association Chairman Robert Vizzni told KCRG-TV that he doesn’t understand why no one from the theatre reached out to him about the casting.
“It’s not hard to communicate with the deaf community. We can be emailed with, and so if we had known about this play since March, I am perplexed as to why as a leader of the deaf community I have had no contact with the director or with anyone from the theater that’s perplexing to me,” Vizzini said.
Artistic director Leslie Charipar says the theater contacted one deaf advocacy organization but acknowledges that more outreach could have been done. She says no deaf actors auditioned.
Deaf community advocate Jennifer Smith said “if you postpone this show and you recast, the deaf community will love you for it. They will attend your shows. This is a long term solution. If you don’t do it, they will never come.”
The theater’s executive director, Casey Prince, says he’ll discuss the situation with other theater staffers before making a decision about any change in the production plans.
An experienced deaf actor from out of state offered her services for the play, but Prince told KGAN-TV the offer wasn’t accepted because a time-crunch for rehearsals and level of professionalism was considered.