by Lorie Lewis Ham
On Saturday, June 3, an ASL production of The Wizard of Oz will be presented at the LJ Williams Theater in Visalia by the Ruby Slipper PAA, The Fourth Wall Theatre Co., and Vizual Voices. It will be an American Sign Language experience for both deaf and hearing audiences. I took a moment to chat with Heather Lemon of the Ruby Slipper and Vizual Voices about this unique production.
KRL: What is your connection to this production?
Heather: I am the Co-Director of this production along with Adrienne Terry, and Brooke Rogers.
KRL: How did this production come to be and who all is involved?
Heather: The idea for this production came to be through an idea that I had to make musical theater accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. I started talking with Adrienne Terry, and she loved the idea, and we got the ball rolling. We approached The Fourth Wall Theatre Company to help us since innovative ideas are their forte, and with their help were able to make the dream a reality.
KRL: Why did you want to bring an ASL production to Visalia and why do you think this is important?
Heather: It is important because it allows both the Deaf and HoH audience to know that all art forms are available to them, and can help educate and inspire hearing audiences and performers to share this experience. We decided to bring it to Visalia because this is our home, and we wanted to do something unique.
KRL: Please share with us what such a production actually means and how it works?
Heather: How it works is all of the performers will be using American Sign Language for their lines and songs. There will be additional performers on the side stage voicing all of the dialogue and songs. Being that this is a first in the Central Valley, it means that new doors and avenues can be opened up for more productions.
KRL: Who are the performers? Is this local, or a touring show?
Heather: The performers are all students at The Ruby Slipper Performing Arts Academy, and are all local to Visalia, Ca.
KRL: How long did it take to put this together?
KRL: Why did you choose Wizard of Oz?
Heather: We feel it offers something for all ages. We also saw that it would allow for a great balance for American Sign Language to be showcased with acting and dancing. It offers a full and enriched experience to both Deaf/HoH & hearing audiences with the voicing taking place on the sides. The Wizard of Oz was the first full production that The Ruby Slipper PAA produced when their studio opened. It is also part of their namesake. In addition, the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was the last song that my daughter, Sydney got to experience live at Audra Macdonald’s concert before she passed away. This show is a part of us for all these reasons, it was the clear choice.
KRL: Wow that is a special story.
Date, time, place, and cost of tickets and how do we purchase them?
Heather: The show runs for one performance on Saturday, June 3 at 6 p.m. at the LJ Williams Theater in Visalia. Tickets are only $15 each and there is a discount for groups of 20 or more. They can be purchased by visiting rubyslipperoz.brownpapertickets.com, or there will be tickets available at the door.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Heather: We are thankful for the opportunity to bring this to the Central Valley of California, and are grateful for all of the support and hope that people will continue to support the arts in our communities!
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