Romeo & Juliet: An ASL Love Story


It doesn’t feel like you’re an actual YouTuber until you’ve filmed in a hotel room, sitting on the floor with a bed as the background.

Hello and welcome to a somewhat special post. As you probably know, I was recently in LA for VidCon. I was also visiting friends for about a week before that. The friends I stayed with, all of them are involved with a production of Romeo and Juliet. It’s an ASL production, really cool. So that’s basically what this post is today. I want to emphasize that not all of the actors are deaf. The hearing ones learned sign for this, but also learned sign for talking outside of the play. It’s a really cool production. I had the opportunity to go to two rehearsals. That was nice, and even though I was there for a short time, only two rehearsals, I felt like I really connected with some of the actors. It’s a really fun group of people, I really enjoyed hanging out with them. So, I present Romeo and Juliet in ASL. Editor’s note: This has a lot of B-roll of the rehearsals, so I would suggest you watch the video solely for that. I will be heavily editing this to make sense as a text post, so be aware of that.

Name and role:

Aly Easton – Director

Jules Dameron – Capulet, Assistant Director, and Director of ASL

Jerome Starr – Paris

Joey Ausanio – Friar Laurence

Nick Mizrahi – Romeo

Amanda McDonough – Gwen

Deborah Apodaca – Voice of Gwen

Justin Jackerson – Tybalt

Amelia Hensley – Antonia

Elizabeth “Elza” Suzanne – Sampson

Stephanie Nogueras – Juliet

What’s your favorite part about this production?

Jules: About 20 cast members, all of them have no ego. All have positive energy, very good people, and all of them sign some. I feel that positive environment every time I go here to rehearsal. I always feel like it’s therapy. I can just let go of my problems from outside, and just focus. That’s why I love this.

Joey: Wow. The cast and crew really connected, and developed this, formed this beautiful family. I love them.

Deborah: Watching all of the actors is just wonderful. It’s a new world.

Aly: This project, I’ve been working on it for four years. So I think for me, the most exciting part is finally seeing it happen.

Amelia: My favorite part of this, to teach sign. Seeing them pick it up, struggling, sweating, analyzing it. Being wrong, more questions, why is it signed that way? I have to think, good question. That’s the fun part of the process for this rehearsal.

Justin: My favorite part about this play is the fight choreography. I’ve been in many plays, maybe twenty different productions. I haven’t done much fight choreography, just once. Now this, wow. All my scenes, I must fight. That’s nice, being physical, and having few lines. I think it’s a different experience, it’s cool.

Stephanie: I like Old English, Shakespeare. It’s really exciting, thinking about it, and the passion. Working together with the translations, from English, but Old English, then regular English, then ASL. That… I enjoy the most.

What’s the most challenging part about this production?

Nick: Learning to sign and speak at the same time is hard. ASL goes perfectly with Shakespeare, I love it.

Elza: The hardest is learning ASL with Shakespeare. Signing at the same time as saying a Shakespeare line is very hard.

Amanda: I think one of the most challenging things in this play for me is translating Shakespeare… To ASL. Oh, it’s hard!

Aly: Shakespeare is a beautiful language, spoken language. I think that’s why I like this show so much, because ASL is a beautiful language too.

Stephanie: What’s challenging about this is time. The play starts soon, and we don’t have much time to help the hearing actors, deaf actors, with communication. They’re not skilled signers, that’s really challenging and eats up time.

Jules: Well. I have three roles – Capulet, assistant director, and director of ASL. The most challenging is the fact that I don’t have much time to do ASL translations with Shakespeare. But that’s the challenge that I enjoy the results of more.

Jerome: In real life, I’m gay. I’m very flamboyant, you know. But as Paris, my character, he’s more of a man, masculine. I’m obsessed with Juliet, I’m in love with her. My challenge is I have to change, not be who I am. On stage, I have to act as a different character.

Amelia: The challenge is how to translate Queen Mab, under Mercutio. Jules and I worked on this, and we realized simcomming that concept, made-up drug thinking… Simcom can’t be done. So that meant I had to take over, and that’s challenging, how I approach that Queen Mab speech.

Why did you want to be involved with this production?

Justin: Why I wanted to be in this project? Really, it’s my passion, acting. Always. The opportunity came up, sure.

Amanda: In the past, I’ve never tried Shakespeare in ASL before. So it’s a new challenge, something new to learn from and grow.

Joey: Really, I did one Shakespeare play in the past, but I wanted more experience doing Shakespeare plays. And it’s so much fun to do.

Elza: I love ASL, signing. For years and years, I wanted the chance to work on an ASL show.

Aly: I love sign language, I love the deaf community. I love deaf actors. I love Shakespeare. Why not both? Juliet being deaf, why not? Where in the script does it say that Juliet is hearing? It doesn’t.

Amelia: I did not audition for this. I just happened to be in the right place. Someone backed out, and they needed a person. Fine. The reason why I said yes is because I love their energy. Looking at it, I thought it was worth being involved with this.

Nick: I worked with Aly four years ago on this show. She asked me to act again, and I’m excited!

Jules: Aly asked me, and I said sure. I think I want more theater experience, plus Aly has beautiful, positive energy. She has the right attitude. I would not sign up for it if it was someone else with a different kind of attitude towards deaf people. She has a very open mind, makes sure all the deaf actors feel involved equally. And makes sure everyone signs. She’s really good about that.

Anything to add?

Aly: I think this story is important right now. It’s about identity, how we can be stronger together. But the consequences when we’re divided, decide to judge each other, not honor the differences, and celebrate the differences.

Amelia: So far, it’s really positive. I don’t have anything negative about this process. It’s great, and the director can sign, that’s awesome.

Stephanie: I think it’s worth it to see it, how it really works, our time investment. I hope you will enjoy it like we do.

Joey: Come see our show!

Nick: Please come see the show. It’s wonderful, we worked so hard. Please come!

Jerome: I promise you will love it.

Elza: Come see the show!

Jules: Just please come and watch this play. I’m really curious what you think about this.

Amanda: Come see this play!

Aly: Support deaf talent! Let us know your thoughts about the show when you come.

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Here’s the link to the event, the play will be running on July 13, 15, 19, and 21. So if you’re in the LA area during those dates, and you have the chance to go, go! I think you will really enjoy it, and won’t regret it. I’ve seen on Instagram stories, the actual stage and what it’ll look like. It looks like it’s going to be a really cool production. That’s it from me today. Go if you can, support these amazing people and all their hard work translating Shakespeare to ASL and work for making this a reality. I’ll see you next time.

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Published by Rogan Shannon

Hello there! I'm Rogan, a queer deaf guy who has a passion for leadership and advocacy. I create YouTube videos about a lot of different topics - being deaf, queer, reading, language, and whatever else interests me!

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