Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Wows Audience

A team of deaf and hearing actors performed a deaf theatre adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Near West Theatre in Gordon Square on October 19 and 20, 2019. The three nearly sold-out shows were produced by SignStage – an educational program of the Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CCDHH) that incorporates American Sign Language and spoken English as a means of educating students and adults about greater communication accessibility and self-expression.

SignStage Artistic Manager, Bill Morgan, is a hearing theater professional who identifies as a member of the Sign Language community. Morgan created the adaptation using both deaf and hearing performers from the local community and served as the show’s director.

“The value in a SignStage performance is the example of deaf and hearing working together,” Morgan said, “It shows that diverse people can work together to accomplish a single goal. For the hearing audience it increases deaf awareness, for the deaf audience it allows them to enjoy a theatrical experience within their own culture and language.”

The CCDHH is part of the Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center (CHSC) and its vision: A community where everyone communicates effectively. SignStage productions focus on serving the Deaf community by providing both a creative outlet and an entertaining event. 

“Every time I direct a show I imagine what I want it to look like. I imagine what the characters will look like and act like.  I imagine the emotional qualities the characters need to express. For Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the final product was better than I had imagined,” Morgan said.

Morgan attributes the success of the show to strong support from the signing community, including both deaf and hearing performers and crew members, and from generous local philanthropy. Cuyahoga Arts & Culture awarded SignStage $5,000 Project Support Grant and the Kulas Foundation matched that support with an additional $5,000 grant designated to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

CHSC Executive Director, Dr. Jennell Vick, attended the show and praised the commitment and professionalism of the performers.

“Like all the programs at CHSC, SignStage makes a positive impact on our community throughout the year, and it was especially noticeable for this project,” Vick said. “The entire production was extraordinary!  The cast, including two of our own staff members, was exceptional, working together in an incredibly synergistic way. The sets, production, and special effects were incredibly creative.  It was all-around one of the most enjoyable stage productions I’ve seen.”