ST. GEORGE — Nearly two-dozen performers acted out skits and songs and told a variety of jokes and stories during the fourth annual American Sign Language Talent Show at Dixie State University Wednesday evening.
A crowd of nearly 200 people attended the show at the Dunford Auditorium of the Browning Learning Resource Center, waving and flashing their hands in silent applause at the end of each act during the nearly two-hour program.
“I deliberately do not provide (spoken English) interpretation of the performances,” said event organizer Allyson Hamilton, an assistant professor of ASL at DSU.
“It was my goal for the audience members to get the feel of the culture and language without the interference of English. I want them to enjoy the experience and to develop an appreciation for the language and the people who use it,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the event has grown in popularity since she started holding it the fall of 2014, the first semester she taught at DSU. The event is held the last Wednesday of each September in conjunction with Deaf Awareness Month.
Organizers said the talent show was not staged as a competition, but was a chance for ASL language learners to showcase their skills and talents before an audience comprised largely of fellow ASL speakers. The audience included both deaf and hearing DSU students, in addition to ASL students from area high schools, other members of the local deaf community and their families.
“The event is designed to demonstrate the beauty of American Sign Language and the interesting and diverse nature of the deaf community,” Hamilton said. “We strive to have as many deaf participants as possible. The students who are taking advanced ASL are required to participate. Several other performers volunteered to participate.”
One of the evening’s more popular performances was delivered by Tony Park, an adjunct ASL instructor at DSU who is deaf. Park, who also served as the event’s host and moderator, delivered a humorous rendition of the children’s story “The Three Little Pigs.” In Park’s highly animated retelling, each of the three pigs was deaf and couldn’t hear the knocking of the wolf, who had to ring the doorbell to make the lights flash. Eventually, the wolf met his match, boiled alive in a pot the pigs put in the fireplace.
Some of the jokes’ punchlines actually relied on their being told in ASL. Lorell Loosle, an adjunct ASL instructor at DSU who also teaches ASL classes at local high schools, told a short joke that re-enacted a famous scene from the classic movie “King Kong.” As she portrayed the giant ape falling in love with the tiny woman he held in his palm, Loosle related that Kong in his excitement suddenly asked the damsel to marry him, thereby squishing her in between his clasped hands. Although it doesn’t make much sense in English, the joke drew laughter from those in the audience.
More than 20 individuals took the floor at some point during the talent show. Several performed comical skits, accentuating their ASL signing with facial expressions and pantomiming. Students Bryce Tadd and Nicole Demke did a humorous duet, Jacob Gerber told a waterskiing story, and Tanya Kyle eloquently signed the lyrics as Disturbed’s haunting version of “The Sound of Silence” played in the background.
“I really enjoyed the ASL talent show this year,” Demke said, adding, “It gives the hearing community a glimpse into deaf culture. It is a lot of fun to learn about other cultures.”
One visual arts entry was also shared, with Gerber’s mother, Jody Gerber, showing a picture of her son that she had painted, showing Jacob signing “angry inside,” indicating his frustration at being unable to communicate when he was younger, Loosle said.
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