Children of a Lesser God at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre

 

Photo Description: Photo reads, "CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD BY: MARK MEDOFF DIRECTED BY: MICHELLE MARY SCHAEFER. July 29th-August 5th. All Performances are open captioned. Tickets at www.hope.edu/HSRT. There is a logo for the Naitonal Endowment for the Arts in the lower right hand corner. The poster is in black and white with two hands reaching towards each other but not touching with two bright lights shining behind the hands.

    I had been looking forward to sitting in the audience of Hope Summer Rep's CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD since 2019. The first attempt at the production was canceled due to Covid-19, and when Lenny Banovez asked me to join the 2021 team as associate director, I was thrilled to be a part of a team that was prioritizing the full and equitable participation of disabled artists. 

    Our director, Michelle, has now been involved in seven productions of CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD, but this was her first time as director. After a last-minute actor replacement, she played Sarah as well. I learned so much from Michelle about her experience as "an actor who happens to be deaf," and her work in many states, across many mediums, all alongside her perfect puppy, Annabelle. Check out her website here to learn more about her work as a writer, director, director of artistic sign language, producer, and deaf consultant. She also has her first two episodes up of her webseries REAL which has been at a bunch of film festivals in the last year and is hilarious. Please watch and support this work! 

Photo Description: The poster reads, "REAL: the tiny film webseries. An exploration of love and the lengths we go to find it." There is a rainbow behind the word real, and a hand drawn picture of a hand signing "I love you" in the center of the poster.

    And learn some sign language! Not only do deaf people deserve the same connections with people that we make everyday, but also connecting sign with how you feel and what you're trying to say is wildly rewarding. It is much easier than you think, and Michelle and Aimee Chou and Lane Breimhorst were some of the best teachers I've ever had. Learn more than, "How are you? I am fine." 
    Before we began rehearsals, the entire production team was able to do multiple workshops with a company called DisArt over zoom. We discussed what the barriers are that currently exist in our work that make it impossible for people to fully participate in our work, and how we can anticipate those barriers and remove them. To learn more about DisArt you can go to their website here. The hours we spent in these workshops were a gift, a real opportunity to examine my own practices and improve them intentionally to be more inclusive. As a collaborator, I always want folks to feel like they have equity in discussion and to feel that they belong. Every day in rehearsal was an opportunity to practice those intentions. We ought to learn more about disability culture as artists. Shit, we need to learn more about disability culture as humans. 
    I am so grateful for the team at Hope Summer Repertory Theatre for prioritizing efforts of inclusion, and especially Lenny Banovez for imagining and creating this opportunity for all the artists. It wasn't just that he did it, but he did it well. He took care of us all while we worked on this project, and we were able to create and connect with each other and keep improving on our efforts for equitable inclusion. What I learned during my time with this exceptional cast and team I will carry with me always into every collaboration I have.
Photo Description: The cast and crew of CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD in front of the set in the Pine Grove in Holland, Michigan. Our rehearsal dogs, Dash and Annabelle, are also in the photo.

Cast and Crew
Michelle Mary Schaefer as Sarah Norman
Jesse James Kamps as James Leeds
Lane Breimhorst as Orin
Aimee Chou as Lydia
James Pickering as Mr. Franklin
PJ Maske as Mrs. Norman
Staci Granzetto as Edna Klein

Director: Michelle Mary Schaefer
Associate Director: Maggie Spanuello
Director of Artistic Sign Language: Michelle Mary Schaefer
Intimacy Director: Alexis Black
Scenic Designer: Stephen Hudson-Mairet
Costume Designer: Anthony Paul Cavaretta
Lighting Design: Katy Atwell
Sound Design: Tamir Eplan-Frankel
Props Design: Lucy Motts
Artistic Director: Lenny Banovez

Photo Description: Dash, a terrier mix, and Anabelle, a "dorkie", on the CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD set. The set is different tones of brown and beige and green, with three different levels, and a screen where open captioning is done throughout the show on the back wall. Dash is smiling and Annabelle wants to know why we are taking ANOTHER picture of her.





    

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