Stan poster and Art with Heart: Sarah Emmott and Rachel Moorhouse. Permission for use: Rachel Moorhouse. Art with Heart photo credit: Sam Ryley
Salford based creative arts company Art with Heart’s bilingual play Stan will be touring the UK from February 2022.
The play that is written and produced by Art with Heart, based at Islington Mill, is performed in both English and British Sign Language.
The production revolves around Sam, who is a dinosaur loving 8-year old. Sam’s world changes after his parents separate. He meets Alex, a deaf girl with a vivid imagination and the two adventure to meet Stan, the T-rex at Manchester Museum.
Although the play is primarily aimed at ages 7-11, it is accessible for people of all ages.
Rachel Moorhouse, producer of Stan, spoke about how important it was for the play to be bilingual: “I think it was that we often found that in terms of theatre one of the things that we found frustrating both working in venues and presenting work is that there is very little access across the board but particularly with deaf audiences.
“I’ve worked in venues before and they often have a very small contingent of deaf audiences and that’s because they’re not putting enough performances on. You’ll often find that the larger venues they might have a Tuesday matinee that’s captioned or BSL interpreted. But there’s like one option in the run of all the big shows.
“When we first started making work, we wanted to ensure that all of our work was accessible and interpreted, so we did that on studio touring and we knew that venues weren’t going to be able to fund that so we kind of funded that ourselves.”
Rachel spoke about how passionate Art with Heart are about ensuring that deaf audiences feel included in their work: “We’ve always been passionate about ensuring that deaf audiences are included but we wanted to go further than that and we wanted to really embed deaf culture and deaf language into the production.
“We thought that it was really important that this play was written and performed in British Sign Language and English and that the characters would communicate in their own language.
“Creative captions are there embedded in the set, for the hearing audience they’ve got a bit of work to do as well, they’re going on that journey with Sam, the boy, to understand Alex and to learn what those signs mean along with Alex and to I suppose feel what a lot of young deaf people and deaf people feel like when they’re heading out to the hearing world all the time.
“The use of the duel language was I supposed to create a semblance of equality on the stage but also within the audience as well so that deaf people who are coming along have got as much of their language in the play.”
The play is inspired by the importance of play and imagination in helping young people process their emotions. It is also inspired by Stan writer Sarah Emmott’s work with young deaf people and the representations of the deaf community.
Find out more about what has inspired the story of Stan below:
Rachel said that producing a bilingual play has been exciting, she said: “In terms of producing it, it’s been game changing. It’s made me more excited and more determined to keep making inclusive work.
“We’re working with a brilliant producer called Mary-Jayne Russell de Clifford and she is a deaf artists and producer and she is working with us to connect with deaf audiences. She is just this huge well of knowledge and she has taught us so much about communication and how to make things more exciting.
“What I’ve found is, people are really ready for this, they want to learn, they want to know more, they kind of don’t want people on the side-lines anymore they want to see deaf stories with deaf performers for deaf audiences and those audiences to be involved in that process.”
The play has been three years in the making and it had a research development period where Art with Heart shared parts of the play.
Rachel said: “We worked with over 200 young hearing and deaf children across Salford and Greater Manchester who helped us feed into some of the educational and the workshop and the wrap around activity and also into the play as well.
“They gave us a lot of really useful insightful stuff. The play itself is going out for the first time but it has been three years in the making.
“A lot of the young deaf people talked about things that they felt were really important for other children to know, for hearing children to know and some of that stuff has made its way into education packs so teachers can go back and do those exercises.”
After the performance, experienced facilitators will run a free workshop to help young audiences to understand and explore the plays key themes. In addition to this education packs with lesson plans will be provided for teachers who wish to further explore the themes.
Art with Heart are also running a deaf awareness workshop with Z-arts as part of the programme of work.
The two-hour webinar will be delivered by a deaf facilitator from the Manchester Deaf Centre and will aim to raise participant’s awareness of different types of hearing loss and provide them with communication tactics and best practice.
To find out more about Stan and the play’s tour dates, visit Art with Heart’s website.