Deaf theatre company hands out bursaries to hard of hearing freelancers

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

The UK’s leading deaf theatre company has handed out £20,000 of bursaries to deaf or hard of hearing theatre freelancers.

Deafinitely Theatre has announced the 20 recipients, at various stages in their careers, who will each receive £1,000 as well as networking sessions and sessions to monitor their personal development.

The company, which works bilingually in British Sign Language and spoken English, said its vision is a world where deaf people are a valued part of the national theatre landscape and are recognised for the excellence of their work.

It was set up in 2002 as a result of barriers faced by deaf actors and directors and launched with a sell-out premiere of Deaf History at the Gate Theatre in London, and in May 2012 the company performed the first British Sign Language Shakespeare play – Love’s Labour’s Lost – at the Globe Theatre.

Among the recipients of a bursary is performance artist and choreographer Chisato Minamimura, who said: “I am very excited to be receive this bursary, as it will allow me to deepen my research into an area of contemporary performance which I find truly fascinating.

“I am using this brilliant opportunity to learn more about Visual Vernacular (VV) and to digitally connect with international Deaf VV experts. From this, I hope to further explore the artistic and choreographic potential VV offers, with the ambition of developing my deaf-led practice and creating innovative choreographic elements, inspiring future creative projects.”

Soundscape artist Richard France said: “Receiving this bursary is a dream come true. I’ve been wanting to develop this project for a long time but I’ve not had the opportunity due to conflicting schedules and other work.

“It will allow me to work with deaf dancers to see how dance can develop through sensory feeling and sonic sounds, exploring an area that I haven’t worked on before and opening up opportunities for me to work with contemporary dancers.

“I want to explore the diversity of British culture, particularly in light of Brexit, through expressive dance.”

Fifi Garfield will use her bursary for the research and development of a solo play or stand-up comedy routine, and Alim Jayda will create a new digital platform, Released Voices, which will present a series of stories and experiences from underrepresented deaf voices and minorities.

Ace Mahbaz will develop his writing skills, exploring the concept of masculinity in the deaf community and what it means to be a deaf man.

Paula Garfield, artistic director of Deafinitely Theatre, said: “Deafinitely Theatre is incredibly excited to be able to support 20 deaf British freelance theatre professionals at this difficult time thanks to the support of the Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund.

“These 20 artists represent just a fraction of the wide-ranging, diverse deaf talent in our industry and we are excited to support their personal development on innovative theatre projects and initiatives.

“We can’t wait to share the work developed as a result of their bursaries, which will be profiled on our website in the spring. Take a look at our website now to find out more about this brilliant group and the work they are making.”

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