The Frank Theatre is launching a new initiative for Deaf and hard of hearing audiences, in conjunction the themes within its newest production.
Ga Ting means “family” in Cantonese. The play weaves a powerful and emotionally-charged story about an immigrant Chinese couple trying to come to terms with the death of their son, Kevin. They invite Kevin’s Caucasian boyfriend for dinner after the funeral, and, for the first time, not only acknowledge that their son was gay, but who he truly was as a person.
This is an important writing debut from Canadian actor Minh Ly, and boasts an impressive cast and pedigree behind the production. It’s obviously a topic he draws from personally: “In Chinese culture, among others, being gay is a topic that many do not want to discuss or even acknowledge. I hope that Ga Ting will spark an important dialogue among families.”
Beyond a weighty subject matter, The Frank is also taking a brave new step towards greater accessibility by arranging for ASL translations on two nights. It seems but a small step in the grand scheme of things, but for budget-strapped indie productions, this is an important pilot and proving ground.
I interviewed Landon Krentz, President of the BCRAD, the association partnering with Frank Theatre on Ga Ting.
1) Tell me more about how the partnership came about. What was involved in setting up the two ASL nights for Ga Ting?
The British Columbia Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf (BCRAD for short) is a voluntary non-profit organization serving the needs and interests of the Deaf-Queer communities. Within the limited funds of the BCRAD, it was not feasible to secure ASL interpretations for all nights. Instead, we decided to hire an interpreter at a discounted rate through our network. The interpreter we found truly understands the theatre world and is a great fit to the event.
2) Can you speak to the importance of doing accessibility right? What are the typical risks involved?
A common misstep is when organizers go source volunteer interpreters from local colleges due to lack of budget. The volunteer interpreters do not have the capacity to provide quality accessibility for higher profile and nuanced cultural events, such as Ga Ting. The risk may include upsetting members of the Deaf communities, who truly wanted to participate initially, and who might instead opt out the opportunity to be a part of the experience.
Another risk I can identify is when an organization promotes ‘accessibility’ at their events. Usually, one assumes that they are thinking about wheelchair accessibility and nothing else. When promoting accessible events, it is critical to be transparent about the services that you are offering.
3) What has the reception been like so far?
Currently, are about 22 people planning on attending Ga Ting from the Deaf-Queer community. To drive interest and exposure, I plan on creating a small group tour from Vancouver to Richmond as a motivation to pull in more attendees. Our members are very excited to be a part of an artsy event; there are not many opportunities for people like us to participate at full capacity.
Arts organizations would often like to do more to remove barriers to their work. Theatre is as much of an auditory experience as a visual one, after all. It seems like partnerships like the one established by The Frank may provide a more sensitive and nuanced approach.
Ga Ting plays at the Richmond Cultural Centre from March 22 – 30, 2014. Advanced tickets available here. ASL Interpretation available on March 27 and 29 evening performances.