A comedy troupe called 100 Decibels has premiered a brand new show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, a mime show called Can You Hear Me Now?. What sets this show apart from the rest is the performers are all hearing impaired.
Shannon Guile, an actor from the popular sketch comedy troupe Hot Thespian Action has been teaching mime to students at the Deaf Centre of Manitoba and Manitoba School for the Deaf. Through the process, she found incredible talent among their ranks.
"They're so used to using expression and using their hands and their bodies. Signing is such a beautiful language," she explained. "There are so many really talented people that should be actors."
She also notes that at first, a few students were very reclusive, uncommunicative and lacking in self confidence. Working in mime brought them out of their shell in a remarkable way.
Guile says they had so much success with the program that they decided to form a theatre troupe, 100 Decibels: A Deaf Mime Troupe, and put on a show. The four members of the company, Jordan Sangalang, Joanna Hawkins, Christopher de Guzman and Dustin Thompson, created the comedic vignettes that make up Can you Hear Me Now?.
As well, Guile and a playwright friend interviewed a number of deaf people to learn about the different ways people become deaf and created three expressive scenes based on the interviews.
During the interview process, they asked participants what they would like to say to the hearing public.
"Everyone said, 'I want them to know that we can do anything they can do'," she said. Three of the actors in the troupe said they'd love to be an actor but were told they couldn't.
Guile says communication has definitely been the biggest challenge. She knows a little bit of signing and has been working with translators.
"But it's been nothing but positive experiences. Explaining things is difficult and it takes me I would say three times longer to teach them because I have to explain things a few different ways. But, that being said, they're very patient and very wonderful and they've taught me so much. I've grown a lot from this experience."
Guile also says the actors are not in the least bit nervous about performing for the public.
"They're happy and excited, they're natural performers."
Can You Hear Me Now? is on at Venue #24 One88 ,188 Princess St. 2nd Floor until July 27 as part of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.