Friday 22nd June 2012 saw the celebration of a course that has been running for over a quarter of a century. TAEDS; for those that aren’t aware, stands for Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies and is a three year degree course that began its life as a 1 year certificate training deaf actors under the title Theatre of the Deaf.
The course’s heritage was reflected in the evening’s entertainment. Ex-TAEDS regrouped at the new facilities on London Road, Reading to meet, perform and share. An eye-opening timeline emerged as Ian Chandler took us back to the 1960’s, describing his work as an actor in Pat Keysell’s Theatre of the Deaf. The contrast of performances from the current first year students followed, in the form of signed poetry and song.
Other performances contributing to the “cabaret style” evening were presented by the wonderful integrated theatre company Handprint who gave an excerpt of their children’s show Soapy Sam.
Once the crowd were suitably warmed up it was time for the “adult entertainment” to begin. Deaf duo, Roger and Ruth performed 3 comical signed songs; Kylie and Jason eat your heart out! Siobhan Dodd wrote a piece especially for the event; “SSE the Musical” which I have to say is crazier than a bowl of fruit loops but also absolute genius! I shan’t give too much away as I’ll be encouraging her to develop this work and bring it to new audiences.
The final climax of the evening was “The Angry Vangina Monologues” performed by a certain deaf West-end star who showcased without a shadow of a doubt the visuality of BSL. By the end of the performances I was worn out through a combination of emotion and side-splitting laughter, however, many partied on until the early hours of the morning.
A great evening was had by all, and whilst I loved the performances which were of an exceptionally high standard, what really stuck in my mind was the general atmosphere of the evening.
Recently, I have been considering the word “community” and how it relates to my own life. I think it’s quite easy to go through life and not feel part of a community. In terms of location a courteous “good morning” to my neighbours does nothing to suggest unity and with regards to my work I am sometimes very aware that I am neither deaf or disabled. I have no religion or diverse cultural background to share with others. However, at this celebration event, it dawned on me. This was my community, the TAEDS community. TAEDS, due to its broad teachings has influence in many areas of theatre, education and deafness across the UK and beyond. For a small course of approximately 25 graduates per year, you may be surprised how many of us are actually out there covering a diversity of professions but with one commonality, TAEDS. I have come to realise how uniquely special that is, there is no deaf and hearing divide. Even those who haven’t signed since graduating knew how to communicate in an inclusive way with an apparent knowledge of deaf awareness. There is no right or wrong career choice after graduating, after three immersive years the world is your oyster.
At the Silver Anniversary celebrations I met new faces and treated them as old friends, I reunited with old friends as if no time had passed. I hugged, conversed, laughed and cheered more than I have done in a long time.