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L’Abbe de L’Epee: A Satire’ comes to the Gallaudet stage

April 6, 2011
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In the epicenter of the deaf world, L’Abbé de L’Epée: A Satire is resurfacing for its American premiere after being lost to time. The play will run April 7 to 10 and 15 to 16 in Elstad Auditorium. (See Theatre Arts website for box office hours and showtimes).

The play was last produced in France during the 19th century, and is a mystery-melodrama in which L’Abbé de L’Epée, known as “the father of deaf education,” plays the hero. The plot? The perpetually-celebrated L’Epée goes to Toulouse on a noble quest to restore an orphaned deaf-mute found off the streets of Paris to his rightful place as immediate heir to ancient royalty, the Earls of Harancour.

L’Epée was written in 1799 by Jean Bouilly, a product-of-his-time hearing playwright with extremely limited perceptions of deaf people, 10 years after the actual L’Epée’s death and the birth of the French Revolution. In its day, it was the second-longest running play in Paris, and it is alleged that Napoleon and his wife Josephine attended the second performance.

Adapted and directed by Ethan Sinnott, the Gallaudet production will seem like a historically accurate period piece, but it is actually a highly satirical, 21st-century culturally deaf take on Bouilly’s play. It alludes to (and incorporates) deaf identity politics, deaf education paradigms, and even recent controversies sparked by revelations of the casting of hearing actors as deaf characters in theatre and film.

The performances on Friday evening, April 8, and Saturday afternoon, April 9, will be signed with voice interpretation provided by Georgetown University theatre students under the direction of Susan Lynskey.

Tickets went on sale April 4 at Elstad Auditorium. The box office is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, from 2 to 5 p.m. and then two hours before each performance.

This production runs 2.5 hours with one 10-minute intermission.  It is appropriate for patrons 12 years old and up (children under the age of 5 years not permitted).

6 April 2011

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