At rEvolver Festival, Catfish finds a theatrical language that both Deaf and hearing audiences can understand | Stir

Simran Gill’s groundbreaking new play is set to premiere live at the Upintheair Theatre event—integrating ASL and music you can feel.

rEvolver Festival runs May 24 to June 4; Catfish runs May 24, 26, 31, and June 1 at C-Lab

When Simran Gill was graduating from high school, she says she was told theatre training would not be an option.

“They said, ‘Oh, it’ll be really hard for me because of my voice, and I wouldn’t be able to speak properly,” Gill, who was born hard of hearing, tells Stir through an ASL interpreter. “There’s not a lot of deaf or hard-of-hearing actors, and I think they just weren’t aware that there were deaf actors.”

Gill would go on to prove them wrong. She is about to premiere Catfish at the upcoming rEvolver Festival—an ASL/English hybrid play she’s not only cowritten, but performs the lead in. At the same time, her show develops groundbreaking new ways to stage inclusive theatre—ones that don’t require an ASL interpreter to stand on the sidelines (a situation that can create what Gill calls the “ping-pong effect” for Deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers).

Supported by Alley Theatre, Catfish has been built from the ground up with Deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing artists, working ASL right into the performance—with an entire team of interpreters involved behind the scenes in its creation process—to fashion an inclusive experience. Even its codirection crosses cultures, with Chris Dodd (the Deaf artistic director of Edmonton’s Sound Off Deaf arts festival) and Gavan Cheema (the hearing co-artistic director of Vancouver’s Theatre Conspiracy) at the helm.

Read more: