As a part of Disability Awareness Week, APU alumni and staff hosted an event named “Can You See Me Now?” on Tuesday, Feb. 28, in the LAPC. This event hosted a Deaf Theater Showcase that focused on deaf awareness and promoted deaf talent.
For the first hour of the event, leaders in the #DeafTalent community presented their work. This included a number of music videos, theater performances, and commercials.
Jules Dameron, a film director and actor, is a prominent leader within the #DeafTalent community. Through a translator, Dameron described her background and passion for filmmaking.
“I’ve just been making movies ever since I was a child. I made my first film when I was 13,” Dameron said. “The heart of my work started when I was at USC. I went there to study film and the school environment really helped become a professional director. Ever since college, I haven’t taken a break yet. I studied it in college and went directly into the field.”
Dameron went on to showcase work that she directed, including music videos and commercials involving song and dance. She described the translation process in directing music and dance as a deaf director.
“I continue looking at the meaning behind the lyrics. Every song has a mood and a rhythm so I try to figure out if they have the same purpose,” Dameron said. “I have to make sure that the signs honor that purpose and that it all adds to the translation process.”
One of the music videos Dameron shared was an American Sign Language (ASL) rendition of Bruno Mars’s “The Lazy Song.” She noted that singers and dancers who starred in the video were all deaf actors and actresses, but she is open to working with anyone who is interested in ASL.
“I am a deaf director so I tend to work with a lot of deaf actors,” Dameron said. “Of course it’s easier for me to work with deaf actors, but I try not to only work with deaf people. If I can, I want to involve anyone who wants to be in the process and I do not want to push anyone who doesn’t want to be a part of the process.”
Aly Easton, an APU alumna and special assistant to the dean at the the College of Music and the Arts, hosted the event. She also directs, acts and produces plays featuring deaf actors and actresses. She expressed her desire for more inclusion of deaf actors in theatrical arts.
“My specialty is Shakespeare with the signing. That is an area that I am very passionate about,” Easton said. “They are timeless stories, but they are not always accessible to the deaf community. I want to be able to find opportunities to bring more diversity into those beautiful stories.”
Dameron also spoke on the public perceptions of deaf people and how they can be changed for the better.
“I think there is an automatic perception that a deaf person is lacking,” Dameron said. “I would encourage people to wipe the slate clean and meet a deaf person before they make a decision on what inabilities they have. I think the more you see the giftedness in a deaf person, the more they will feel like they have a place in your world.”
Dameron emphasized the idea that the deaf community should feel empowered in the fact that they have a different perspective with different abilities than everybody else.
“I encourage deaf people to feel good about being deaf,” Dameron said. “We shouldn’t feel like we can’t make it in the entertainment industry if we are deaf. Being deaf is a gift because our brain is wired completely different. We are spatial in the way we relate to the world. We have a really different way of seeing the world than hearing people.”
Dameron noted the need for an increased awareness and understanding for the deaf community.
“I hope we can keep on building projects and keep the dialogue going,” Dameron said. “The term hearing impaired is an example of an insensitive term for deaf people. We don’t want to be defined as impaired. We want to be thought of as on the same level as everyone else.”
Easton hosted this event with the goal of spreading awareness and redefining deafness.
“The biggest goal of this event was to bring about awareness and to stop recognizing deafness as a disability. Instead, we want to recognize deaf people as differently abled,” Easton said.
Grace Blondefield, a sophomore business management major, reacted positively to the event.
“Today was really cool seeing a deaf professional in the field of entertainment,” Blondefield said. “I learned more about deaf film and the different way deaf people see emotions and color.”
Easton was encouraged by the response of APU students and staff.
“I thought the response was great! I would love to see more students but just the idea that we’re opening the door to those conversations and wanting to bring in different voices is really important.”