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THE UNIVERSAL DRUM

Drama and Communication in ASL & Music

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The Universal Drum: “Strike the Instrument”

Posted on June 11, 2019 by Sign & Sing

Watch an excerpt of The Universal Drum: “Strike the Instrument.”

Poetry by Willy Conley. Music by Brad Balliett. Stage Direction by Katherine Dubbs. ASL Direction by Beth Applebaum. Performers: Andrew Morrill, Malik Paris, Heather Jones, Francesca Federico, Karl Ronneburg, and Dylan Greene.

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The Universal Drum: “We are Deaf/Hearing, and we live in both worlds”

Posted on June 10, 2019 by Sign & Sing

Watch an excerpt of The Universal Drum: “We are Deaf/Hearing, and we live in both worlds.”

Poetry by Willy Conley. Music by Brad Balliett. Stage Direction by Katherine Dubbs. ASL Direction by Beth Applebaum. Performers: Andrew Morrill, Malik Paris, Heather Jones, Francesca Federico, Karl Ronneburg, and Dylan Greene.

Overview

The Universal Drum: Conceived as the synthesis of Deaf and musical performance, The Universal Drum is an unprecedented experimental work that explores the synergy of Deaf and Hearing worlds through drums. This work of performance art integrates classical music, drama, and American Sign Language (ASL) poetry that can be experienced by Deaf and Hearing audiences alike.

This piece will be groundbreaking in its inclusion of ASL, sung and spoken word, and percussion. Unlike any previous work of performance, The Universal Drum will include “ASL-triggered” sections, where the ASL is a cue for the music, playing with live, in-performance tempo. Our goal is to create an ASL-centric piece.

Commissioned by SIGN & SING, the work was first written by Deaf playwright Willy Conley, has been translated by Gallaudet University students, and will be set to music by composer Brad Balliett for SIGN & SING’s ensemble of singers, Deaf actors, and percussionists. September performances at National Sawdust for National Deaf Awareness Month will be the launching off point for a multi-performance tour at Deaf schools and New York universities.

SIGN & SING: Founded in December 2015, SIGN & SING is a nonprofit performance program that explores stories about accessibility and understanding through opera and American Sign Language (ASL). Rarely witnessed in the operatic and new music world, simultaneous ASL performance with live music has become more and more important as music and theater becomes accessible to all audiences.

Performances & Community: SIGN & SING interweaves three communities into one audience: the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and musical communities. SIGN & SING collaborates with Deaf actors, opera singers, percussionists, and other performers to create innovative and accessible experiences.

Creators:

Willy Conley (Poet) is a Deaf American playwright known as the most widely produced, living Deaf playwright in the world. His plays explore ideas from the Deaf perspective in relationship with hearing culture. Awards include the Sam Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition winner, American Deaf Drama Award, Laurent Clerc Fund for Cultural Advancement, and the VSA Playwrights Discovery Award, among others. www.willyconley.com.

Brad Balliett (Composer) is a composer and bassoonist in New York City who explores innovative performance for all audiences. Brad is a composer best known for The Oracle Hysterial and the Gnostic Gospels as well as a performer with Ensemble Connect at Carnegie Hall, the Princeton Symphony, Ensemble Signal, and other renowned new music ensembles. In his spare time, he teaches composition at Sing Sing prison and battered women’s shelters. www.bradballiett.com.

Katherine Dubbs (Concept/Director) is a stage director and opera producer who has gained renown for her innovative approach to opera and new music. Previously the Founder and Artistic Director of Princeton Opera Company, Katherine focuses on community-based theater and new approaches to musical performance. Katherine is the Founder of SIGN & SING, dedicated to creating accessible, Deaf-friendly art for her family. http://www.katherinepearldubbs.com/.

Project Media

Our Work – SIGN & SING
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SIGN & SING is best understood when witnessed. In this video, soprano Alexa Jarvis and Deaf actor Beth Applebaum collaborate to create a re-imagination of Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s “At the Statue of Venus.” Originally composed for solo soprano, SIGN & SING incorporates ASL by including a statue of Venus that anthropomorphizes and communicates solely in sign. The statue is both a figment of the character’s imagination and an alter-ego who expresses her feelings and frustrations as she waits for a blind date in a museum.

Composer Spotlight – Brad Balliett
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Features: Brad Balliett

“My Flocks Feed Not” is a movement composed by Brad Balliett in a larger work called The Passionate Pilgrim. Presented by the Oracle Hysterical and the New Vintage Baroque, hear Brad’s compositional style and imagine the seamless integration of percussion and ASL.

The Work in Development – The Universal Drum
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With the help of Deaf playwright Willy Conley, who wrote the English text of the poem, and director Katherine Dubbs, students at Gallaudet University for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing wrote ASL translations for The Universal Drum. Here is student Gideon Firl performing his translation to show what signs will synchronise with sung English and percussion.

Start and End Dates

01/13/201809/30/2018

Location

New York, New York

2 updates
Last update on June 11, 2019

Project Created By

New York, New York
Founded in December 2015, SIGN & SING is a nonprofit performance program that explores stories about accessibility and understanding through opera, new music, and American Sign Language (ASL).  Rarely witnessed in the operatic and new music world, simultaneous ASL performance with live music has become more and more important as music and theater becomes accessible to…

In Collaboration With

New York, New York
Director
New York, New York
Vocalist
Percussionist
New York, New York
Queens, New York

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