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Taking the Stage!

UNO's Noah Diaz shines in "Tribes"

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 11:01


Photo Courtesy of Snap Productions

Girlfriend Sylvia (Regina Taylor) translates Billy’s (Noah Diaz) pain and suffering as he attempts to communicate it via sign.

Opinion editor Noah Diaz takes the stage as Billy in SNAP! Productions “Tribes,” a show focusing on the difficulties of communication between a Deaf son (Billy), two hearing siblings, their argumentative parents, and Billy’s new girlfriend, Sylvia, in present-day London.

Diaz, a junior majoring in American Sign Language Interpretation, said, “I do my best to give Billy life onstage. I want people to think he is a real, live person in front of them.” It’s no secret that Diaz was in for a lot of work with this show, due to all of its aspects.

Diaz not only had to sign, but also speak with a Deaf voice. Director Michal Simpson said, “We wanted it to be correct, yet understandable. It could not be in any way offensive or make any sort of commentary.”  
Diaz also had to lip-read: “Cognitively juggling everything onstage is more difficult than people realize. There’s tons to do and it’s all very difficult.”

Siblings Ruth and Daniel, portrayed by Kaitlyn McClincy and Rick Terkeurst, keep the sibling rivalry up between wanting to be an opera singer and writing a thesis, often providing comic relief from the family tension.

Sylvia, played by Regina Palmer, begins teaching Billy (Diaz) sign language, as she was born to Deaf parents. But in reality, Diaz was teaching Palmer. Learning sign language was intimidating. By constantly watching videos from a Deaf coach, talking to Diaz, and continually going over it, Palmer became what would appear to be fluent. “I’m just going to keep learning ASL (American Sign Langauge) because I think it’s a wonderful language and I’ve also wanted to learn a second language,” Palmer said. While signing may have been her biggest struggle, the reward was worth it. “It’s like your hands are dancing.”

Beth, played by Judy Radcliff, spends her time keeping the family going, and arguing with husband Christopher, played by Brent Spencer. Christopher thinks Billy is the greatest of his kids, but he has a solid definition of what is black and what is white, therefore not letting Billy ever connect with the deaf community and judging Sylvia before he meets her.

Yet once Billy comes forward without speaking, and Sylvia acting as translator for the family, things begin to boil over in frustration, anger, excuses, denial and tough love. Eventually, Billy is forced to leave the family for his girlfriend because he’s had enough.

Palmer, who fell in love with Sylvia said, “I took my own emotional pains and I tried to make them fit into Sylvia’s world.” Even though she did that, “On an emotional level it was hard.”

After a painful break-up, Billy returns home to find the family waiting, with a change of heart, as Daniel asks him the sign for “love.”

“Tribes” has several lessons going on in its simple, yet complex plot, and has taught most cast members something.

“The most valuable lesson is remembering to listen to things that aren’t always being said,” Diaz said. Palmer also said, “Speaking is not language, it’s a way of communicating.”

The show was also helpful for Diaz. “It taught me a great deal about empathy and understanding that everyone has a different viewpoint. Nothing is black and white.”

Simpson said it makes viewers “witness, process and come to their own conclusions on the issues of belonging, community and finding ones ‘tribe’. The need to belong is inherent in all of us, and we all have ‘tribes’ outside of our birth family.”

Michal Simpson pulls together an all-star cast and crew as he deals with a show that not only has over 400 cues, but one that must also have proper, consistent sign language, and correct blocking to enable lip-reading.

“Folks will get an understanding of where both sides are coming from on the issues,” Simpson said of what people can expect. “They also get a taste of the challenges for both hearing and Deaf in the most basic of daily interactions. And if they are unfamiliar with the Deaf community and the issues they face daily in their lives, they will gain insight and understanding, both on an intellectual and emotional level.”

“Tribes” runs from now until Dec. 15 at SNAP! Productions, located on the corner of 33rd and California St. Tickets are $12 for students and $10 on Thursdays.


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