Act!vated Story Theatre

Why American Sign Language in Children's Theatre


A silly and humorous explanation about why we use ASL that is part of our introduction to every show
Every Act!vated Play is performed in voice and ASL simultaneously.

Each actor signs their own lines so the audience can focus on the action and their attention is not split between interpreter and actor.

Our Background with American Sign Language

Q: Is anyone in your family deaf?

No. We just love the language. We even got married in a church for the Deaf and used ASL to exchange our wedding vows. Our son (hearing) was signing when he was just a few months old, before he could even talk. We were thrilled to be able to communicate with our infant, which saved us all countless hours of frustration.

Q: Then, why do you use American Sign Language?

Because it's fun. It's an extremely expressive language which lends itself well to stage. Works well backstage too, where you have to stay quiet so the audience won't be distracted.

Q: How did you start using ASL in the shows?

When our hearing friends learned of our interest in American Sign Language (ASL) they would tell us about the time they went to a show and how they enjoyed watching the interpreter. Our deaf friends complained about missing the action because they had to watch the interpreter. So we came up with a solution. To have the actors use both voice and sign language on stage. We love the challenge and feel it has upped the performance level. We are hoping to serve as a bridge between two cultures.

Q: How did you learn ASL?

Well, Kimberly started in grade school, reading books - like The Joy of Signing, and then started taking classes in San Francisco after graduating from high school. When you learn any language you reach a point when you want more than books and classes, so she found a deaf community to hang out with. Dennis started because Kimberly made him, and he always does everything his wife tells him to (yeah right).

Nowadays, we use the internet and videos to keep up to date.

Q: Do you sign in every show, even if everyone in the audience is hearing?

Abbsoultely. The message we want to spread is American Sign Language is a language that anyone can use. We've discovered that it is captivating to fussy infants and toddlers, they are content to watch the show while they drool and coo. Their improved attention span typically surprises their caregivers. And we've been told that it helps people learning English, which is a fringe benefit we were not expecting when we first started out.

So you want to learn American Sign Language? Here are some links to get you started:

At Your Library

Check out ASL books at your library in the 419 section.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing students are welcome to attend the pre-show workshop acting workshop at any of our live shows. During the 30 minute session they will learn roles to perform in the play alongside their peers.

In addition to the show, we offer Hand Play an interactive workshop for anyone who wants to learn and play with American Sign Language (ASL).