Dominican Arts & Culture Day

Posted: October 13, 2009 in Training
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The future of Deaf theatre 6 years ago (can you believe it?!) we started a theatre training programme at Dominican School for Deaf Children in Wynberg.  We knew nothing about the Deaf or Sign Language or Deaf Education but we just figured, “Hey, Deaf kids should be able to do theatre too…” and approached the school to set up weekly classes. We were beautifully naive as to what we were getting ourselves into, and totally clueless as to where it would take us, but such was the beginning of our work in the Deaf community.

Today, 6 years later, the programme has gone from extra-mural, non-Getting ready for class compulsory classes with any of the learners who happened to be around on a Monday afternoon to being compulsory, assessed classes with all the senior learners in the school.  It has gone from being managed by Tanya Surtees to being being managed by Deaf company member, Lysander Barends, and sees us taking learners through a series of modules selected from: Creative Movement, Traditional Dance, Physical Performance, Mask Work, Mime, Physical Animation, Theatre Appreciation, Theatre Making, Theatre Design, Identifying Jobs in Arts and Culture, and Capoeira.

Lysander, the first Deaf learner to go through all levels of the Tell-Tale Signs Programme, remembers: “I started at the Wittebome School for Deaf Children in 1990. Playing was always my favourite thing. My friends Bird masks and I loved spending time together and we ignored the teachers who bored us to death, our world was a lot more fun. I used to hate dancing and performing and on Mondays at two in the afternoon we had our first ‘Performance Class’. There were two people there who were both white. I was very naughty; I had no respect for these new teachers and gave them a hard time! The children asked them to explain what their names were and that’s how I found out the man was Rob and the woman was Tanya. I thought they had very nice names! I couldn’t stop laughing at these two people that taught us Ballet! My friend Ricardo and I hated dancing but our new teachers were very strict with us Deaf kids. When they started teaching, communication was hard; we couldn’t always understand what they were saying! We could see that the communication gap really bothered Rob and Tanya, and they always worked hard with us and made us understand mime. They taught us for four years while I was at Wittebome. Now I work at FTH:K and love going back to Wittebome to teach what I have learnt and experienced with Rob and Tanya!”

Yip!  We couldn’t sign for the love of cheese when we started the programme at Dominican!  It is a tribute to the willingness of the In performancelearners to meet us more than halfway (and the fact that we kept going back until they realised that we weren’t going away and they had to engage with us!) that we managed to communicate at all with each other.  But besides the development in our signing, one of the most exciting developments in the programme (although there have been so many!) is the establishment of the annual Arts & Culture Day that we hold at the school.  It first started as a performance by the learners for their peers, just to showcase what they had been working on throughout the year. 

ArtIt also allows our FTH:K Trainees the chance  to develop their theatre-making skills by creating short works on Since then, it has grown to include theatre performances, drumming, exhibitions of art and crafts, and even the chance to purchase some of the crafts made by the learners.  Each year gets better and better as the learners pour more of themselves into the event and as the audience for the day grows.  So, if you would like to join us in celebrating the Deaf performers of the future, please come along to

Dominican School for Deaf Children, Clare Road, Wittebome

Tuesday 3rd November from 9:00 am onwards

Dominican learners C’mon…you know you wanna!

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