The talented students at St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf staged an impressive version of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” last week, delighting those who packed the auditorium at the 260 Eastern Parkway school.
The two shows last week represented the culmination of months of hard work that began when the students watched and analyzed a subtitled version of the Disney movie.
Translating the lines from English to American Sign Language proved a valuable learning experience for a group of students whose command of spoken English varies widely.
“It’s really a second language to most of these kids,” said Colleen McEvoy, the school’s theater teacher and the show’s director.
McEvoy said she chose “Snow White” because, as a well-known story, it made it easier for the students to understand and “take some creative ownership of it.”
And take some creative ownership they did, most notably in the case of the mirror on the wall, which was represented by eight students.
Working after school three days a week over a ten week period, the approximately 40 students grades 3-6 put together a crisp, professional version of the show.
The performers’ lines were recited in sign language and then translated vocally to the audience by two professional interpreters.
“It was very successful. The students did an amazing job with their characters and really shined on stage,” McEvoy said.
McEvoy, who is not deaf, said she has always been “fascinated with sign language. When I got out of college, I took sign language classes and really got to be around deaf culture.”
She began teaching theater at de Sales in 2001. After a stint as a full-time teacher, she now teaches part-time in addition to other teaching jobs.
But she derives a unique satisfaction with working with deaf children.
“I love working with them. They have so much excitement and appreciation for the things they’re doing – they adore the theater,” she said.
“When they first start out, you see how scared and unsure they are on stage. But then they become more confident and start to own their movements and presence on stage. It really helps develops their language and social skills.”