State of the Art

A hearing-impaired video star made my day

I have nothing clever to say about the video you’re about to see. It’s from a performance of “Journey to Oz,” the most recent show at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. It’s not beautifully shot, though it becomes clearer and easier to follow midway through. But it’s beautiful in another way.

In this production, different kids came out of the audience throughout the show to play Dorothy Gale. Last Saturday, one of them was Meena Fink, who’s hearing-impaired. She had come to the show because Lyndi Patton-Gura was signing that day.

Meena went onstage to face down the Wizard – he’s the green wavy thing with the menacing voice at the start of the clip – and stuck around through a seven-minute scene. She knew she’d have to watch Lyndi for cues. What she didn’t know was that Dan Brunson, one of the four actors, knows American Sign Language. (His wife, deaf actress Julianne Gold, appeared in “Children of a Lesser God” on Broadway.)

Brunson spoke his lines and signed them, too. At the end, he brought the whole audience to its feet, showing them how to respond in a way Meena would recognize as applause.

The most valuable thing about theater is that it provides a chance to get inside the skins of people who aren’t like us. Last Saturday, Children’s Theatre unexpectedly brought that concept home in a powerful way.