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Carnival, Circus, Canon

Bristol Community College's DST Deaf Literature sections(Spring 2016) presents a digital "Literary Night Experience"

Jennifer Marsella

on 6 May 2016

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Transcript of Carnival, Circus, Canon

What is "Deaf Literary Night?"
performed by Joe Velez
Originally reconstructed by Eric Malzkuhn


This adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s work, emphasizes “language-over-content” in the same way as Carroll originally intended it. “The main point of the work has become ASL-a visual-kinetic vernacular” (Peters 58). This poem, or more-like performance, demonstrates the expressiveness of ASL and the endless creativity it can showcase. “Jabberwocky” highlights the significance of “syntax and narrative structure” to a story, but more importantly to a language. This work is important in the validation of ASL as a language.

Panara was born on July 8, 1920 in the Bronx to Italian Immigrants
Became Deaf at the age of 10 due to spinal meningitis
Panara’s parents brought him to see Babe Ruth in hopes he would regain his hearing
Got through mainstream public schools by lip reading
Learned sign language after high school (when he went on to Gallaudet
Graduated from (what was then) Gallaudet College in 1945
Taught at Gallaudet for two decades
Went on to become the first Deaf professor at NTID (also helped establish it in 1965)
Started NTID drama program and taught classes on literature and creative interpretation through sign language
Is an author and many of his books helped establish deaf studies as an academic pursuit
In honor of his achievements, NTID named a theatre after Panara

Welcome to

Carnival, Circus, Canon
BCC DST Deaf Literature, Spring 2016, proudly present:
A Deaf Literary Night Experience
Carnival, Circus, Canon
The Bristol Community College Spring 2016 Deaf Literature class
is pleased to share with you a virtual ASL Literary Night!

In this presentation, you will find:
Background on what Lit Night is
Important ASL storytellers (look for the
Important works to the Deaf Literary Canon (look for the

Deaf American Literature,
Cynthia Peters writes:
“The very label ‘ASL literature’ – applied to work not written down –
itself breaks the rules of literature. In breaking the rules,
this form is doing something new, something different,
perhaps something better;
it thereby displays the essence of ‘carnival.’”

Enjoy the show!

Bristol Community College
Deaf Studies Program,
Deaf Literature, Spring 2016:
Anne B.
Ashley D.
Bree B.
Carrie S.
Christina C.
Codi B.
Jen M.
Jocelyn K.

A most heart-felt "Thank you!" to our Professor, Program Director, Deaf Warrior, and all around Wonder Woman, Sandy Lygren. Your passion and enthusiam to teach and mold us into appropriate Deaf Allies is extraordinary and greatly appreciated!
Ella Mae Lentz
Poet, Performer, Researcher, Advocate
Why did God make farts smell?
So Deaf people could enjoy them too.


“A Journey into the DEAF-WORLD.” A Journey into the DEAF-WORLD. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016
"Actor, Director, TV Host, and Writer Gil Eastman." About.com Health. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://deafness.about.com/od/peopleindeafhistory/p/gileastman.htm>.

Arizona, U. o. (2016, April 1). College of Education. Retrieved from https://www.coe.arizona.edu/faculty_profile/156

Bauman, H.-D. L. (2008). Open Your Eyes: Deaf Studies Talking. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bauman, H.-D., Nelson, J., & Rose, H. (2006). Signing the Body Poetic: Essays on American Sign Language Literature. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press.

"Biography." The Official Site of John Maucere. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.

Christie, Karen and Wilkins, Dorothy, "Roots and wings: ASL poems of "Coming Home"" (2006). Accessed from http://scholarworks.rit.edu/other/598

Codawann. "Keith Wann." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016

Deaf Mosaic 406. 1988. <http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=1671>.

“Debbie Rennie.” Signing Hands Across The Water. N.p., 21 Dec. 2011. Web. Apr. 2016

Eastman, Gilbert C., and Gilbert C. Eastman. Sign Me Alice ; &, Laurent Clerc: A Profile. San Diego, CA: DawnSignPress, 1997. Print.

Edmondson, Jacqueline(editor). Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars and Stories. Santa Barabara, CA; Denver, CO; and Oxford, England: Greenwood, 2013. Print.

Eye Music. Dir. Ella Mae Lentz. Perf. Ella Mae Lentz.1995. Video
From Mime To Sign book cover image. Digital image. Http://www.amazon.de/From-Mime-Sign-Gilbert-Eastman/dp/0932666345. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

"Gallaudet University Theatre Arts Presents Sign Me Alice (2007)." - Gallaudet University. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=17078>.

Harmon, Kristen. "Graybill, Patrick." Encyclopedia of American Disability History. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009.American History Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 5 April 2016.

Hernandez, Manny. "DSDJ :: Deaf Studies Digital Journal." Deaf Studies Digital Journal ::. Gallaudet University, 2014. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.
Hernandez, Manny. "ASL Storytelling: "One Feather" Performed by Manny Hernandez." YouTube. YouTube, 29 June 2010. Web. 9 Apr. 2016.

Humor, Deaf Comedy/Deaf. YouTube. 11 October 2006. Web. 4 April 2016. <

Jarashow, Ben. YouTube. 30 July 2015. Web. 20 April 206. <

"Keith Wann." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

Lentz, Ella Mae. ASL Presents. n.d. 5 April 2016.

"Life and Works of Bernard Bragg » The Sign Language As I Know It." Life and Works of Bernard Bragg » The Sign Language As I Know It. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.The World According to Pat: Reflections of Residential School Days. Perf. Patrick Graybill. ASLATC, 1986.

Lucas, Ceil. "Valli, Clayton." In Burch, Susan, ed. Encyclopedia of American Disability History. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2009. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.

"Manuscripts." - Gallaudet University. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <https://www.gallaudet.edu/library-deaf-collections-and-archives/collections/manuscript-collection/mss-068.html>.

Nathie Lee Marbury's Obituary on Austin American-Statesman. (2013, April). Retrieved April 10, 2016, from http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/statesman/obituary.aspx?pid=164333872
"National Theatre of the Deaf Presents My Third Eye." Gallaudet University. 1980. Web. 22 Apr. 2016. <http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=16588>.
"News." NBDA Mourns the Loss of Longtime Member: Dr. Nathie Marbury. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
"No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie." No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016.

"Robert Panara, Writer, Poet, Professor and Pioneer of Deaf Studies, Dies at 94." Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
"Robert Panara." N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

"Robert F. Panara Theatre." NTID Performing Arts. N.p., 20 Feb. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
RITNTID. ""NTID" a Poem by Robert Panara." YouTube. YouTube, 21 July 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

"Patrick Graybill." Art Drop. Sept. 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

Peters, C. L. Deaf American Literature: From Carnival to the Canon. Washington, Dc: Gallaudet University Press. 2000. Print
"Poetry in Motion - Patrick Graybill." Poetry in Motion - Patrick Graybill. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
"Poetry in Motion - Debbie Rennie." Poetry in Motion - Debbie Rennie. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
"Poetry in Motion : Clayton Valli." (VHS Tape, 1990) [WorldCat.org]. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.
Ridloff, Douglas. "George Carlin and Deaf Comedians on Edge." Web log post. Douglasridloff.blogspot.com. Blogger, 22 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.
"Sign Language Access with Keith Wann." Sign Language Access with Keith Wann. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
Sign Language Literature. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA; London, England: University of California Press, Ltd., 2006. 62. print.

"Sign Me Alice & Laurent Clerc: A Profile - Two Deaf Plays." Sign Me Alice & Laurent Clerc: A Profile - Two Deaf Plays. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.dawnsign.com/sign-me-alice-two-deaf-plays>

Smith, Cheri, Ella Mae. Lentz, and Ken Mikos. Signing Naturally: Units 1-6. San Diego, CA: DawnSignPress, 2008. Print.

Smith, C., Lentz, E. M., Mikos, K., & Cahn, L. (2008). Signing naturally: Student workbook, units 7-12. San Diego, CA: DawnSign Press.

Supalla, S., & Bahan, B. (1994). American Sign Language Literature Series: Bird of a Different Feather & For a Decent Living . San Diego: Dawn Sign Press.

Wikipedia, T. F. (2016, March 23). Samuel James Supalla. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_James_Supalla

Wilcox, Phyllis Perrin. Metaphor in American Sign Language. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University, 2000. Print.

Wixtrom, Chris. ASL Access:http://www.aslaccess.org/videoreview_thetreasure.htm. NA NA 1998. Web. 8 April 2016.

Wordsworth, William. The Complete Poetical Works. London: Macmillan and Co., 1888. Print; Web.

"Yahoo Web Search." Jon+maucere. N.p., n.d. Web. Apr. 2016

Citations Needed
CJ Jones
“Drag Race” Bill Ennis)
Patrick Fischer
Peter Cook
Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner
Sam Suppella
"what Deaf people DO with language is what hearing poets try to MAKE their language do."

Deaf Residential Schools & Literary Societies

Attended Oregon school for the deaf where he creatively spun ASL stories for the deaf students.
Known for retelling the ASL story "Eyeth". – Uses mundus invertus to create the image of parallels worlds.
He has many famous and popular pieces in Deaf literature.
Many Deaf people prefer Supalla’s story For a Decent Living since it reflects their own shared experience.
Supalla’s "For a Decent Living" which is a fictitious narrative used as study guide for students studying ASL as a second language.
"For a Decent Living" has examples of Audism and dyconscious audism and oppression of Deaf people.

Sam Supalla
Bird of a Different Feather
Ben Behan
"Bird of a Different Feather" is a part of the ASL Literature Series by Dawn Sign Press. The story, told by Ben Bahan is an allegorical fable.
Bahan uses an eagle family to show parallel meanings between two worlds. The eagle family represents a hearing family that just finds out that their deaf child/bird is different than the rest of the hearing family. Deaf people will not miss Bahan's meaning on how the hearing world always wants to fix the Deaf child/bird.
Give me back my language the way I signed it
when I was young.

Give me back my language the way it used to
be– before linguists “discovered” it and
conferred a new name on it.

Give me back my language the way I learned
from my deaf parents, from their deaf friends,
from my teachers, both deaf and hearing.

Give me back my language the way I remember
how the deaf storytellers role-modeled it to me.

Give me back my language without any of those
rules, restrictions, impositions, or fixed
boundaries that the linguists established for it.

Give me back my language that has a great
potential for change and growth.

Give me back my language which is very much
part of who I am.

– Bernard Bragg
The Sign Language as I Know It
Bernard Bragg is an artist in his own right and created beautiful works of art on what was
happening at the time and what was important to him. In this piece, he express how frustrated he is about having something that he loves, his language taken away from him and he could no longer use his language to communicate to the world. This is important to Deaf Literature because it show the struggle and the fight between the Hearing and the Deaf to keep ASL a language and show that it is a form of communication. American Signed Language is a part of who he is as person and that it is a part of his Deaf Identity.

Clayton Valli
aka "the Deaf Robert Frost"
• Clayton Valli was a “pioneer in researching and raising awareness of ASL poetry”
• He was drawn to expression through poetry and the limitlessness of ASL. Valli “believed in ASL as a beautiful boundless language that could express anything”
• He in fact “made an important contribution to the acceptance” of the language through his linguistic studies, with the help of his well-known works: Language Contact in the Deaf Community, What’s Your sign for Pizza?, The Linguistics of ASL, and being editor-in-chief of The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language.
• He led the declaration of ASL Poetry as a literary genre.
• Clayton Valli is part of the Poetry in Motion series that demonstrates the “intermingling of aesthetic principles and rhetorical practices.” Peters analyzes that Valli’s style is “combining the old with the new, the vernacular with the written.”
A couple of his most well-known poems are “Cave” and “Dandelion”
Another famous work “Dandelion” is simplistic in nature, but in actuality is multifaceted as well with a deeper meaning. It compares dandelions to Deaf people. Dandelions are seen as weeds- that they don’t belong with flowers. The man in his poem is frustrated and keeps trying to pull them out of the ground, but they just continue to spread and live on (Handspeak.com). In comparison, hearing people continue to ignore the validity of Deaf culture and ASL as a true language, and persist on fixing Deaf people. The man just keeps pulling the weeds out of the ground. Through his poems, Valli shows just how versatile and expressive ASL is.
Dr. Nathie Marbury
Storyteller/Teacher/ Black Deaf Advocate
Born in Grenada, MS in 1944; the 16th of 17 children; she was sent to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf
Attended Gallaudet University for her Bachelor’s degree
Received two Masters degrees from California State University
Completed her doctoral coursework in applied linguistics at the University of California and completed her doctorate in Deaf studies and Deaf education at Lamar University.
First black Deaf woman to enter the National Leadership Training Program
First black Deaf instructor at the Kendall Demonstration Elementary School for the Deaf
In 1996, she established her own company called Nathie Marbury Communications, to whom she was owner and director. She then started filming multiple works such as ASL poetry, ASL stories, videos for learning ASL vocabulary (which are in some of our very own ASL labs at BCC) and visual poetry as well.
She was a co-founder of HMB Productions with Tom Humphrey and Bridges.
Nathie used her full range of movement, classifiers, and powerful expressions to inspire audiences while teaching and storytelling.
For over 35 years, she graced the countries of the United States and Canada with her knowledge of ASL and doctoral knowledge of Deaf culture, presenting numerous workshops and seminars for the Deaf and hearing.
She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 26th NBDA Conference in 2013 by American Deaf Community, Professional Interpreting Community, and the NBDA Board of Directors.
In the beginning of the ASL poem “Black Hole: Color ASL”, the storyteller sees a ladder and begins to ascend upward, unknown to the destination above.
As she climbs the ladder, they look all around, both back down to the familiar and upward to the unknown. Where are they heading?
The unsure facial expression says it all, as this is a metaphor for a deaf person coming into the Deaf community.
Stopping at a point on the ladder where a plank of paint gallons sits, red, yellow, blue, green, and black paint that symbolizes ASL.
How? Well, the title tells us--"Color ASL." And the person in the poem dips their HANDS into the paints!

Looking up, they splash the colors across the canvas of blue sky like fireworks.

She falters and looks down at someone shaking the ladder, beckoning her to come down. Here is a metephor for the hearing world down below, begging and pleading with them to come down from the Deaf world. They tumble down, knocking over the pails and
sending the color black all around her like a black hole.

Flailing their arms, they notice that their arms transform into wings.
Soring higher and higher and breaking through the ASL colors which splashes all over the face and the storyteller is free in the Deaf world, and finally free from the blackness below.

"Black Hole: Color ASL"
by Debbie Rennie
Manny Hernandez
Poet, Teacher, Storyteller
Born Mario Hernandez but is referred to as MannyASL
Received his BA in Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University
Currently a teacher at the Catholic University of America
Provides advanced ASL storytelling workshops for children and adults.
He can be seen in his DVD “MannyASL – Stories in American Sign Language.”

What is Manny known for?
MannyASL is renowned because of his ability to translate English print into ASL register that adults and children can easily understand; demonstrating the links between the text, pictures and ASL.
He continues to make storytelling more enjoyable by teaching people how to create stories using motion and emotion.
He believes that “
storytelling ignites the power of knowledge.

–Manny Hernandez

Manny Hernandez is famous for works like “One Feather,” “Baseball,” and “Drag Race.”
One of his most Famous is “One Feather.” It is the story of a young Native American boy who faces manhood. Before he is able to smoke a pipe with his chief he goes on a hunt with his tribesman. He ends up in a snowstorm and has to take shelter inside the bison. After his return with the bison he receives a feather from his chief.
This story is an old Cherokee tale. This example shows how other literatures (in this case oral) have been passed down just as ASL literature is passed down. From Orature to Literature.

Mary Beth("MB") Miller
Comedianne/Performance Artist/ Storyteller/Author

“Mary Beth Miller is well-known for exploring the cross-cultural barriers between deaf and hearing people in her deaf comedy stand-up materials.”
Her jokes usually display and make light of the “absurdity of oralism and ignorance among hearing people about deaf people in existence.”

Cultural Encylcopedia

Manny Hernandez and MB Miller both use laughter and emotion to convey meaning.
They create visuals with words and handshapes; gestures emotion and body language.
Both also use their stories as cultural encyclopedias. Cultural encyclopedias can sometimes be used to bring up issues significant within the culture. The stories can sometimes include the Deaf experience and cultural values but most importantly they bring together the Deaf community.
Patrick Graybill
Storyteller/Actor/Performance Artist
Born August 29, 1939 in Kansas to Hearing parents
Seven brothers and sisters, five being deaf
Graduated from Kansas School for the Deaf- became inspired by a teacher’s storytelling ability
Graduated from Gallaudet: received Bachelor’s in English and Master’s in education
Taught for three years at Kendall Demonstration Elementary School in Washington D.C.
Became a priest briefly but was denied an interpreter, missed acting
Joined National Theatre of the Deaf in 1969
Retired from the Theatre in 1979
Conferred the degree Doctor of Humane Letter, Honoris Causa from St. Thomas University, FL
He enjoys interacting with his audience

-This video is some selected excerpts My Third Eye : http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=16588

-Starring Patrick Graybill, Dorothy Miles, Linda Bove, Mary Beth Miller, Bernard Bragg, Dave Berman, Carol Flemming, JosephSarpy, Timothy Scanlon, Richard Kendall, Edmund Waterstreet

-This production was directed and designed by Deaf people
-This work was designed also for a hearing audience to begin a journey to understanding and explore ASL
-Won a Tony Award in 1977 for Theatrical Excellence
-The first scene asks Berman how he thinks he would feel if he were Deaf, asking what is most important thing
10:50, there begins the circus theme: the "exhibit" is two people from the world "Ubba-Bubba" where people communicate with their mouths not their hands. This is a topsy-turvy world where Deaf is the majority and hearing is the minority. "They see with their ears (clap, hearing people turn)"

30:00 begins a scene that plays with English and ASL, uses the sentence "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." In English this uses every word in the alphabet. In ASL they play with the sentence in other ways, such as signing word for word or all words at the same time or speed reading( showed at 30:50). They show how the sentence can be signed simply, as opposed to English that requires extra words to explain the same effect.

This work is important for this canon because it explains and shows how ASL is important to the Deaf community as their language. There are many examples of play between English and ASL which can hopefully
help introduce a hearing audience to ASL and better understand a Deaf view.
Keith Wann
At only 33 years old, Keith Wann achieved one of the most sought after titles in the Deaf social world- storyteller. He began performing in 2002 at an ASL improvisation group. Borrowing real life cinereous from his CODA childhood, viewers connect to his authenticity.
The ASL community really began to take notice of Keith in 2004 after his parody of “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice went viral.
Keith is deeply revered in the community as an ASL advocate. He uses humor as a tool to tighten cultural gaps between hearing and Deaf society; he is a classic Jester. The Jester sees the true state of affairs in Deaf society and communicates what he or she perceives in an entertaining way; he serves to release aggression and relieve the group of anxieties.
His performances mirrors the literary expectations; he does renditions of ABC stories, collaborative stories, and grotesque humor.
"Poetry in Motion"
Vernacular Poetry
Filmed in 1990, this cannon worthy videotaped trilogy highlights three storytellers. Each storyteller stars on their own 60 minute (non-voice-over) film. Because these performances were recorded the viewer can rewind the performance. Thus, the storytellers were able to add levels of deeper levels of meaning and more aesthetic pleasures

Clayton Valli-Original Poems such as “Cave” (defends ASL and value of using hands compared to cochlear implants), “Hands”, “My Favorite Old Summer House”, and “Windy Bright Morning”.
Patrick Graybill- “Liberation” a poem with high quality of rhythm and rhyme (3 handshapes-17 signs analyze
1. Graybill’s personal joys being able to freely use ASL
2. Desires, frustrations, and anguish of others within the Deaf community
3. Historical experience of Deaf Americans), a translation of a poem entitled "Not Waving, but Drowning”, & other original poems
Debbie Rennie- Included a multifunctional/multidimensional fingerspelled performance of a calf on the way to becoming veal … & other original poems

While utilizing a mixture of high and low, artistic and didactic, transcendent and mundane, Poetry in Motion teaches both the Deaf and the hearing of how ASL poetry combines the aesthetic (the written) and the rhetorical (the “oral”)

Purchase Poetry In Motion: http://store.signmedia.com/1352.html

Ken Glickman
aka "Professor Glick"
• Grew up in MA, attended Clarke School for the Deaf
Graduating Dartmouth College in 1977 with a degree in Psychology
• Early career in computer programming at IBM and teaching programming at NTID and Gallaudet
• Left programming career in 1987 to establish DEAFinitely Yours Studio and focus on ASL performing and writing about ASL and Deaf culture
• Has published 5 books
• Best known for his Deafology series of performances, in which he plays “Professor Glick,” a burlesque version of an absent-minded college professor giving a lesson on Deaf culture
• In his Deafology performances makes light of sometimes stressful and awkward interactions between the Deaf and hearing worlds, in the tradition of the “Deaf American Jester”
• Performed at the 1994 NAD convention, a great example of the “carnivalesque” nature of Deaf literature and the burlesque treatment of mainstream culture
“In brief, the production is a classic of what happens to the classical in carnival.”

A Tale of Two ABC Stories
Ken Glickman, in an excerpt from his Deafology 101 performance uses the letters of the English alphabet from A-Z to describe rolling and passing around a joint and other pot paraphernalia, getting increasingly intoxicated, and finally ends with NO MORE (Z)! The form of the ABC Handshape story subverts the English language by eschewing the phonology of the letters of the English alphabet in favor of their visual representation in ASL. (Peters) In this particular ABC story he also subverts mainstream culture by approaching a taboo topic, something that is allowed and encouraged in the Carnival world.

In contrast, Ben Jarashow takes the ABC story into the political realm in his original work Gallaudet Protest in which he uses the handshapes of the English alphabet to describe the Deaf President Now protest at Gallaudet University in 1988. This ABC story is a double-subversion as in addition to the subversion of the language, the topic also deals with an event that rallied against oppression from the hearing world and demanded change. This is an example of a political, community-focused work as opposed to the entertaining, burlesque work by Mr. Glickman.

Both share the same form but very different motivation and goals.
John Maucere
Comedian/Writer/aka "Super Deafy"
Rally Leader at DPN (Deaf President Now movement) in 1988
1st Deaf actor in ABC's Talent Development Program; showcased in numerous TV series such as
Law and Order,

Brand New Life,
Pacific Blue.
Emcee for many prominent movements and events including award ceremonies and anniversaries' of like the 20th year since DPN.
Contributed to the Signing Naturally curriculum which we use today.
Portraying the lead in his own Deaf Superhero movie as SuperDeafy!
“..you have to be Deaf to understand!”
"Sign Me Alice"
This play is very much about Audism and Oppression. Alice is constantly being told that in order to be “proper” she must learn English. Alice is portrayed as a strong willed female protagonist who clearly has a mind of her own. In Act 1: Scene 2, Dr. Zeno tells Alice that if she learns to “be a lady” by signing English she can sleep in a bedroom and drive in a nice car to a ball and if she “rebels” she will be forced into the basement and be considered an “ungrateful, wicked girl”. This is an important work of literature due it it being a play about "fixing" Deaf and how this is actually more harmful to society than helpful, as many may believe.

John is currently working on ASL poetry and short stories, continuing to add to the Deaf literature available. Click below to view his short story, "Two Faced Friend.

Ben Bahan
Canon:S am Supalla's "For a Decent Living

This story is "...about a young man from the country who leaves home to seek his fortune in the big city. He meets up with an older Deaf American Who filled him in about the local deaf club then accompanies him there. At this club the young man is at first viewed with suspicion, as members take him to be a peddler. Once everything is cleared up, they welcome him warmly. When he asks about job opportunities, a tell him of various openings, including those at the big factory near town— yet they warn him that the factory is unlikely to hire a Deaf employee. Rising to the challenge, the young man heads for the factory and persists through numerous rebuffs to finally meet the manager. Fortuitously this manager knows some fingerspelling, and he takes a chance on the young man. The young man settles down happily in his new job and is a model worker. So the work quickly becomes repetitive and monotonous, he works diligently until he has a rather absurd accident— he falls into a large hole, injuring himself and losing consciousness. After coming to in the hospital, the young man— still confused and not knowing where he is— staggers out of the building, back to the factory, and back to work. All this makes a very favorable impression on the manager, and the narrative ends with many of the young man's Deaf friends being given the same opportunity to show what they can do." Peters, Cynthia. Deaf American Literature: From Carnival to the Canon. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet UP, 2000. Print. Page 176
Samples of this work by other people are on

Peter Cook
-Only child
-Became Deaf at age 3
-Began performing at a young age, and writing poetry during his teen years
-Moved to Massachusetts at age 6 and attended the Clarke School for the Deaf
-Was introduced to sign language at the age of 19
-Attended college at NTID
-Started the Flying Words Project with Kenny Lerner in 1986
-Currently resides in Chicago, IL
-Associate Professor in the Department of ASL-English Interpretation at Columbia College Chicago
-He has worked internationally with Deaf story tellers from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Japan

Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner are canon because of their unique ability to tell stories. Peter Cook is a top ASL story teller because of his understanding of his body and facial expressions. He is able to fully embody his characters and bring his audience into the story world with ease. His use of classifiers and depiction of abstract thought is well understood and received in ASL. He is also very traditional in his ability to engage the audience in a face to face setting. He is a true orator in every sense of the word. His recorded performances show a level of sophistication, creativity, and imagination that make all of his works canon.

A Dynamic Duo:
Peter Cook and Kenny Lerner
Debbie Rennie
Creates and develops poems in ASL.
Uses ASL to perform poetry.
Teaches deaf children theatre arts: movements, acting, poetry, and storytelling.
Contributed to Poetry in Motion alongside Clayton Valli and Patrick Graybill.
Some of the most popular: Swan, Black Hole, Missing Children.
Currently working as a freelance artist.
Directing, acting, making films, travelling and giving lectures and workshops on theater and sign language poetry.
Patrick Fischer
aka "Mr. Shiney-Head"
Performer/Director/Producer/Teacher/ Consultant
Teaches ASL and Deaf Studies in Portland
Director of Artistic Sign Language at Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Works focus on:
- personal experiences
- childhood memories
- day to day experiences that Deaf people share
Works include:
- “Deaf Dog in the Park"
- “the Eruption of Mt. St. Helen”
- “Gone Fishin”
- along with many ASL interpretations of Shakespearean monologues

"Old Wise Corn"
This poem is about the Black Civil rights movement. It goes through many different images from a Native American, to a Roman soldier, to the Black protestors, to those sitting at home watching it on TV. Cook uses the idea of “magic seeds” that can become anything to link all of these together. The poem emphasizes how change can happen and how one change can start chain reactions. Before beginning the poem Cook dedicates the piece to “all people who plant seeds.” 48:23 (specific poem)

Below is a video of a whole performance. The whole is really amazing- some stories are very very funny and others are very moving. Approx. one hour
Gil Eastman
• Gilbert attended the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, then entered Gallaudet University.
• Director and stage manager for Gallaudet after graduating
• One of the founding members of the National Theater of the Deaf
• He was also a stage manager and translator
• Two plays Gil is most well-known for are Sign Me Alice and Laurent Clerc
• Co-host on Deaf Mosaic
• Wrote a book entitled From Mime To Sign

"Drag Race"
by Bill Ennis
I chose Clayton Valli as my canon because he is a talented poet who uses nature as symbolism in a way where he could be considered the Robert Frost of Deaf American Poetry. He also composes his poems in a way that they have a vernacular way about them, with this technique he combines old and new, written and vernacular. Valli uses nature to symbolize the events Deaf people go through in life such as cochlear implants and the capacity that ASL has.
• Born, St. Louis, MO. CJ was the 6th of 7 hearing children born to Deaf parents. He became deaf at age 7 from Spinal Meningitis

• After he became deaf, he briefly tried an oral education in a local school, then transferred to Missouri School for the Deaf, where he graduated High School.

• As an entertainer, CJ Jones has done just about everything, from performing a Tony Award winning play on National Tour, to directing Deaf kids from high school to kindergarten in their own productions. He has acted in TV, written several one-man shows that have toured the US and internationally, and gives motivational speeches to colleges and companies.
In short, CJ is CEO, producer, director, writer, actor, comedian, and musician. CJ has performed his one-man show in Ecuador, Japan, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the US Virgin Islands, and in every state in the union. He has performed in hundreds of elementary, high schools, universities, colleges, conventions, and many events across the continent, inspiring hearing and deaf, young and old.
Drag Race, an ABC story written and performed by Bill Ennis, is Canon because it is a fantastic example of a well executed ABC story. ABC stories are in the vernacular, they twist, turn, and play with the English language, specifically the 26 letters in the English alphabet, while remaining true to ASL. In doing so, ABC stories become something that written English could only hope to do. Bill Ennis creates a functional movie before ones very eyes, while sticking to the very strict parameters of an ASL-ABC story. The first viewing of Drag Race is simply fun and captivating. The transition between the handshapes A-E is fast paced and intense. After further inspection and more viewings, one begins to notice the brilliance, sophistication, and creativity in the poem. When Ennis gets to the G handshape, he slows down the story, almost as if he needs to regain control of the racers. From handshape I-Y, Ennis is role switching between the two characters while they race at break neck speeds. However, he always remains the narrator, never breaking eye contract from his audience. His hands, fingers, and facial expressions change flawlessly, making the story feel more cinematic and demonstrating the power and creatively that is found in ASL story telling. Drag Race is a powerful and amusing ABC story and Bill Ennis’s delivery is fantastic, thus, this story is Canon.
"Eye Music"
adapted and presented by Ella Mae Lentz
In conclusion, ASL storytelling is the only living oral literature in the Western World.
• A skilled storyteller can take a piece and retell it with their own personal experience, many times making it even better than the original.
Destination: Eyeth
Destination Eyeth is a short film by actor and comedian Arthur Luhn. Eyeth is an important part of Deaf mythology, about a planet where everyone is Deaf and the world is focused around visual communication and access. It is done in the style of a silent film, which also has a strong connection to the Deaf community as well. The story centers around a wacky scientist trying get to Eyeth, each attempt is more humorous than the last.

See more at:
Dr. Nathie's astonishing personality and involvement in the field encouraged many to appreciate the language of ASL. She has been known for her huge love for the Deaf, black Deaf culture, hard of hearing, and her hearing students who took her classes and spent countless hours mentoring countless others. Besides sharing valuable knowledge through many classes, workshops, seminars and presentations, many enjoyed her humor. She was loving, inspirational, and was always pictured with her famous beautiful smile.

She Passed away April 15, 2013;
beloved by Deaf community for her passion, humor, teaching skills, and
ASL storytelling.
Robert F. Panara
His works include:
“On His Deafness”
“The silent Muse: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry by the Deaf”
“Great Deaf Americans”
Panara used poetry to tell of his experiences with being Deaf - Click video here:
Many of his stories are about his past experiences and life at the residential school, easily related to other Deaf people's experiences
Dramatic range of acting and combo traditional and innovative ASL poetry, storytelling, translations, influences American Deaf Theater and ASL lit. ASL and education impacted his life and reflect central themes of the American deaf community
Clayton Valli
I find little problems and I give them a humorous touch. Thus, humor makes things more bearable.”
–Ken Glickman

Kaylee T.
Kerin T.
Maggie P.
Ostin L.
Paige A.
Paige T.
Viv G.

"Cultural staple presented by literary societies at Deaf residential schools or by adult organizations.
Variety/talent shows of diverse forms and performance styles: news, storytelling, skits, one-act plays, poetry/song, art sign, mimicry - all with emphasis on "literary."
Intermixing of Deaf and mainstream cultures
Gallaudet graduates teach at these schools, and introduce "lit societies" to students
Institution Blues
by Don Bangs
"Black Hole" as performed by a student
My Third Eye
"The World According to Pat"
• Born into a Deaf family; active member of vibrant Deaf community in 1960’s Berkeley, CA
• Created written poetry in English very young
• Began translating her own works into ASL and creating new ASL pieces with support from her
mentor and teacher, Eric Malzkuhn
• Attended Gallaudet University, then National Theatre of the Deaf. Both allowed her career to
flourish “in the areas of research, developing, teaching, performing, and presenting.” (Lentz)
• Research resulted in significant educational and training material development
• Part of an uprising, a creation of ASL literature and Deaf-voice content which collectively emerged in
the last quarter of the 20th century in the US
• “The Treasure,”1995, was a groundbreaking video collection yielding important ASL poetry, establishing
Ella Mae as a veritable icon of ASL “visuature.”
• Other poems/Videos include: Travels with Malz, The Dogs, Eye Music and To a Hearing Mother.
o These poems showcase:
- Introduction of theatrical elements, including lighting, background and props
- Cinematic techniques such as special effects graphics
- ASL artistry
- Visual orality,
- Performing in a new “space” of video – an ‘always available’ space for viewers to watch at their whim,
of which she was at the forefront
- Deaf “voice” expressing Deaf experience, issues and oppression through visual metaphors

Ella Mae Lentz’s works represent an evolution of ASL poetry and a cornerstone in Deaf literature.
Her experimentation and study of ASL and visual gesture, combined with storyteller creativity,
Deaf experience, and her ownness of her content makes Ella Mae “one Deaf artist whose work
exemplifies the performative power of ASL poetry.”

This story is "...about a young man from the country who leaves home to seek his fortune in the big city. He meets up with an older Deaf American Who filled him in about the local deaf club then accompanies him there. At this club the young man is at first viewed with suspicion, as members take him to be a peddler. Once everything is cleared up, they welcome him warmly. When he asks about job opportunities, a tell him of various openings, including those at the big factory near town— yet they warn him that the factory is unlikely to hire a Deaf employee. Rising to the challenge, the young man heads for the factory and persists through numerous rebuffs to finally meet the manager. Fortuitously this manager knows some fingerspelling, and he takes a chance on the young man. The young man settles down happily in his new job and is a model worker. So the work quickly becomes repetitive and monotonous, he works diligently until he has a rather absurd accident— he falls into a large hole, injuring himself and losing consciousness. After coming to in the hospital, the young man— still confused and not knowing where he is— staggers out of the building, back to the factory, and back to work. All this makes a very favorable impression on the manager, and the narrative ends with many of the young man's Deaf friends being given the same opportunity to show what they can do."

Samples of this work by other people below:

"For a Decent Living"
Sam Suppella
King Kong
On a hot summer day, many people were frolicking at a local beach until King Kong appeared on the scene. Seeing the huge ape, people began to scream and hustle off the beach, except for one lovely young lady. Unaware of all the commotion, the woman continued to sunbathe peacefully. Having scared everyone away, King Kong approached the only remaining person on the beach and scooped her in his hands. She was frightened and began to scream. King Kong tried to tell her how beautiful she was. She indicated that she was Deaf by pointing to her ears and shaking her head. King Kong was surprised to learn that she was Deaf, since he knew some sign language. He began to sign, "You are so beautiful. I want to marry you." But in the process of signing "marry," King Kong smashed the girl into pieces.
This adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s work, emphasizes “language-over-content” in the same way as Carroll originally intended it. “The main point of the work has become ASL-a visual-kinetic vernacular” (Peters 58). This poem, or more-like performance, demonstrates the expressiveness of ASL and the endless creativity it can showcase. “Jabberwocky” highlights the significance of “syntax and narrative structure” to a story, but more importantly to a language. This work is important in the validation of ASL as a language.

Copy & Paste Link in new window to view:
Performed by Joe Velez
originally reconstructed by Eric Malzkuhn
If a deaf man goes to court,
is it still called a "Hearing"?
by Chad Evans (Belfair, WA)
"Mouth Story"
MB Miller from Live at SMI!
An entertaining example of ASL storytelling. Miller uses gestures and facial expressions make the story humorous as well as exhibits how one's story becomes part of the author themselves and how they can not be written down like traditional literature.
Her gestures, facial expressions, body language, and even her manner of signing to show how talented Deaf poets and storytellers truly are; showing how she is able to portray who the character is while changing them rapidly.
“Such skillful enactment, which relies on semi-mimicry, is considered “high” artistic ASL discourse; in contrast, mime and even acting itself are not regarded highly in western culture.”
"This ASL narrative opens with a woman driving along a country road until one of her tires goes flat. It is beginning to get dark so she looks for help. After traveling through brush she comes upon a house where a man just shrugs after explaining her situation. She can not call anyone because there is no phone or electricity. The man explains he uses candles. Distressed, the woman asks to sleep there. The man offers a spare bedroom where a candle continues to flicker preventing her from sleeping. She can’t blow it out. Her host can not blow it out and neither can the three other guests. In the end a sexy woman uses her finger and thumb to put out the flame."
Teacher at Gallaudet University
ASL storyteller:One of his famous works is "Bird of a Different Feather
A writer, he wrote "A Journey into the Deaf-World (Our Deaf Culture required reading)
Co-director of a film called "Audism Unveiled"
Started a company called DawnSignPress and was Vice President, which is now a leading publisher of ASL and Deaf culture books including our ASL books
CJ Jones
Ella Mae Lentz adapted this into ASL and it has become one of the most celebrated and distinguished pieces of ASL poetry. The term “eye music” had been adopted and acculturated by the Deaf author, David Wright, from Wordsworth’s 1842 poem “Airey-Force Valley.” This work had been adapted and translated repetitively, and each time, the “poet in the poem” has found their own meaning and strength in their expression of this work, stretching English and ASL.

Eye Music is a simple representation, which “transmits culture through the oral tradition, connects one generation with another” with rhythm and pace that sets up the musicality of the rich visuals. The digital graphic enhancements show a use of advanced video/film techniques applied to a newer art form, allowing the vehicle to become a part of the poem.

"To a Hearing Mother"

• Original ASL poem by Ella Mae Lentz with English translation subtitled

• In this work we can see visual vernacular techniques espoused by artists such as Lentz who “represent a more formalist approach akin to Robert Frost’s” as a part of an emerging generation of ASL poets in the 1980s whose original works “make brilliant use of handshapes, rhythm, movement, and space,” and “directly address Deaf-related themes, including the suppression of ASL or hearing parents’ attitudes toward their deaf children.”

• Lentz uses rhythm in the double-repetition of certain signs and then shifting to a rhythm that repeats the sign 3 times after illustrating how Deaf and hearing can cooperate, utilizes space setting up the hearing mother far apart and setting action surrounding the Deaf son between herself and the mother, uses role shifting between herself and the mother and visual symbolism in comparing the Deaf son to a tree

• This work belongs in the ASL Literary Cannon as it is an original poem by one of the most important artists from the early emergence of original ASL vernacular productions, the transition from “creating stories and poetry in written and spoken English (and signing them in English world order), Deaf Americans now strive to create poetry and narratives in ASL that are as excellent as any composed in written English.” It showcases her talent, the artistry of ASL and an important theme in Deaf American Literature
"In 1982 Fairmount Theatre of the Deaf production 'Circus of Signs' used a circus format and "clowns" to demonstrate some of the possiblilities of sign language as an art form."

"Deaf Way:"
An International Festival and Conference on the Language, Culture, and History of Deaf People
Performed by Manny Hernandez ("Manny ASL)
For BCC DST Students, you may view here:
(in site--> course resources--> videos--> ASL Lit samples--> World According to Pat)
Middle Ages and Renaissance
"Fairs, harvest festivals, market days, popular feasts and wakes, processions, competitions and other open air- amusements."
Included comic shows, mummery and dance in costumes and sometimes masks, giants, dwarfs and trained animals."
Aristocracy + Townspeople + Farmers = Togetherness for Festival
"Low" and "Common" get the upper hand
"Carnival...ushers in a topsy-turvy world, a mundus inversus where the usual rules and restraints are temporarily suspended."
Taken from " American Literature: From Carnival to Canon"
Mundus Inversus- Topsy Turvy
A "fair" of all-out revelry, non rational, heterogeneous, bizarre, grotesque, exorbitant.
Sideshows with bizarre, freakish, unusual and unexpected: Bearded Lady, Conjoined Twins, Alligator Girl
Transgression and playfulness
Popular folk forms
Participation in rituals, ceremonies and discourse usually unwelcome by majority, ruling classes, or religious establishments
Intermixed comic forms
Take potshots at conventional, civilized discourse including grotesque or material body and its everyday functions
Low folk humor; farce, spectacle
Face-to-face interaction and socialization

"Carnival is a prerequisite of a
healthy Deaf literature"
Well known character presiding over
festivities for thousands of years in most cultures
Combination of bard and buffoon
Clowns, jesters and fools: sources of true wisdom, arising from their peculiar double perspective: they stand both within society looking out, and outside looking in.
They hold up the mirror of truth to society
Sees the true state of affairs in Deaf society
and communicates this in an entertaining way.

"Festival is at the heart of cultural and communication of deaf communities
July 9 - 14, 1989. Washington, D.C. "Con-Fest" sponsored by Gallaudet University
500 presentations and workshops
Artistic performances and events
Activities Everywhere! Films, booths, art displays roving mimes and clowns, poets, storytellers, fashion, exhibits, poster talks
Thousands of diverse Deaf participants included international people from all professions, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life

Is this familiar?
South American "Rio Carnivale"
Mardi Gras (with a "Grand Marshal"
"A Phi Kappa Zeta Literary Night at Gallaudet University in 1994 was emceed by a pledge in clown attire. In announcing each performance, she alternated between clownish behavior and dignified address."
Fingers That Tickle and Delight: Stories by Eveyn Zola
Deaf Nation Expos
ASL Slams
Deaf Festivals: Chicago Deaf Arts Festival, Seattle Deaf Film Festival
Community Performances
Comedy Shows
NTD Children's Programs

-From beginning and throughout performance he makes audience feel important,
"WE all have dreams, hearing or Deaf.."
-Relates to many other Deaf people through similar experiences such as it being a nightmare that residential schools are closing
-CODAs were skilled in ASL and would help teach other students during their play time
-He gives many examples of how sign language was used such as: being able to eat and sign words on one hand at the same time
-Residential schools are large part of Deaf Identity
-If residential schools are closing, this work will be important to future Deaf children to understand there is an importance in unity while learning and celebrating ASL with peers
Full transcript