Hearing a Difference: a Gift to Applied Theatre

Hearing Difference: a Gift to Applied Theatre

Zhiling Guo

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, UK and ADDN



In this paper, I will discuss the contribution of Deaf culture to Applied Theatre using two projects from The Signdance Collective company as examples of “Deaf Gain,” a concept that refers to the contribution that Deaf culture can make not only to the empowerment of the Deaf community, but also to human society. The Signdance Collective, established in 1987, was one of the first organizations in the world to use and establish the concept of inclusive practice, with a specific emphasis on cooperation led by Deaf and disabled people. The two projects under discussion are a week-long theatre workshop with local multi-need youths in Chesham, and a sign language dance workshop in Croatia with Deaf, hearing, physically disabled, and neurodiverse artists. These projects explore the theatrical value of sign language by considering how Deaf narratives are non-linear and visual and can therefore call into question the concept of completeness and challenge the dichotomy of disability and non-disability. It will also consider how Sign language, as an embodied language that encompasses body and space, can present a miniature universe that encapsulates the relationship between humans and the world serving as a primer that both links to the body and maintains some distance from it.

Biography: Zhiling Guo

Zhiling Guo has an MA in Applied Theatre from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and is currently practicing as an Applied Theatre practitioner. She has expertise as a Chinese Sign Language interpreter and is committed to the advancement of Deaf culture. Her research centers on investigating the potential contributions of Deaf culture to the theatre and dance fields. Her work engages with physically disabled, deaf, hearing, and neurodiverse communities, as she leads and participates in inclusive theatre projects across China, the UK, and Europe.