Prince Hamlet for Deaf and Hearing Audiences Comes to Montclair State’s Peak Performances

Montclair, NJ – When stage director Ravi Jain started Why Not Theater in 2017, his goal was to challenge assumptions. Inspired by the mantra of “why not” representing the question you ask when you are met with a barrier and try to find a creative solution, Jain seeks to challenge what stories are told and who gets to tell them.

And that’s exactly what Jain and Toronto-based Why Not Theater do in Prince Hamlet — a bilingual, gender-bent reimagining of the Shakespeare classic featuring visual/ASL translation, making the show accessible for both hearing and Deaf audiences. Now the Montclair community will have the chance to see the performance as part of Montclair State University’s PEAK Performances from September 22 through September 25 at the Alexander Kasser Theater.

“I think we take an old story and make it new again and that is really exciting,” Jain says. “I think it’s important for people to remember that old stories are important … but there are ways to activate them that can make them more exciting and make them relevant.”

Prince Hamlet features visual/ASL translation by Dawn Jani Birley, who plays Horatio and won the 2017 Theater Critics Award for Best Female Performance in a Play. “In life, a Deaf person often has the least amount of power,” says Jain. “In our play, Dawn is the one with the most power. As she signs, the whole story comes to life.”

Prince Hamlet received five nominations in the 2017 Dora Awards — Canada’s most prestigious theater honors, including the cast, for Best Ensemble Performance in a Play; Ravi Jain, for Outstanding Direction; and Why Not, for Outstanding Production; and Andre du Toit, for Best Lighting Design. Dawn Jani Birley won the 2017 Theatre Critics Award for Best Female Performance in a Play.

“In our casting, we really defied gender, race and ability in order to tell the story. The real surprise was defying ability because we ended up making this bilingual hearing and Deaf Hamlet, that was really, really exciting.”

Prince Hamlet is at the Alexander Kasser Theater at Montclair State University at 1 Normal Ave, Montclair, NJ on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 25, at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $50. Montclair State University undergrads receive a prepaid ticket with valid ID.

For more information or to purchase tickets, click here

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