Interview with NYDT’s Deaf Gay Artistic Director

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30 year-old Chicago-born, Aaron Kubey is the new artistic director of the New York Deaf Theatre.

New Queer Expressions

By Christopher Murray
Theater Gay City News

The New York Deaf Theatre (NYDT) hasn’t had an artistic director in more then 10 years, when Anthony Allicino was at the helm. But several months ago, a vibrant young actor from Chicago was tapped to take the theater to a new level.

Aaron Kubey, 30, an out gay man, is deaf, with augmentation from a hearing aid that allows him hear partially and even engage in that most emblematic New York City activity, walk down the street talking on his mobile phone. Although he still relies on lip reading, he has never considered himself disabled, a controversial word among the deaf.

Kubey trained with the National Theatre of the Deaf and made a big splash at Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles at 19 playing Alan Strang, the intense and troubled young man at the center of Peter Schaffer’s “Equus.” He later became the first deaf student in the 80-plus-year history of the DePaul Theatre School in his hometown of Chicago.

In New York for six months now, Kubey has already scheduled shows for NYDT for the next two years and is working to build collaborations with mainstream theatres around town. Kubey is also acting in their current revival of Christopher Durang’s “Beyond Therapy.”

CHRISTOPHER MURRAY: What your job as the artistic director of the New York Deaf Theatre?
AARON KUBEY: This past January, the theater held an open forum meeting to decide if it was time to close down. There was no leadership. Some friends of mine said we know someone with the passion and ideas, you should hire him. They did! In the past four months, I’ve tried to initiate a major face-lift – redoing the logo, sponsoring a signed performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” and collaborating with LaGuardia Community College on Deaf Awareness Week activities.
I’ve formed a development committee and we had a pool tournament fundraiser that was really successful and fun. The NYDT has been functioning as a really professional community theater. My goal is to turn it into a professional theater that serves the community.

CM: How has the transition been for you moving to New York City?
AK: From Chicago it’s not that much of a difference, it’s bigger. Recently, I called my grandmother for her birthday and left a message on her answering machine. She had to listen to it four times before realizing it was me. I guess I’m already getting a New York accent and talking New York fast!

CM: Is your family deaf?
AK: Both my parents are deaf and my older sister. I have two hearing sisters. Both my parents are first-generation deaf. My sister and I are the first generation in my family to know American Sign Language [ASL].

CM: How much can you hear?
AK: With my hearing aid about 75-80 percent. Without it, not much.

MC: The deaf community is changing rapidly, as is the gay community. What is it like to live in both those worlds?
AK: It’s hard and easy at the same time. When I go out to a gay bar with friends, everyone looks at us signing away. They check us out, but are often intimidated about coming up and saying hello. Maybe they don’t know we can lip read, they are concerned that they don’t know ASL.
But some people get over that and do approach you and make conversation. They say they want to learn how to sign. After Spanish,

ASL is the fastest growing language in America. LaGuardia Community College has a terrific interpretation-training program.

CM: You’re currently single, do you tend to date within the deaf community?
AK: Both within and without. Some people prefer not to date another deaf gay person. It varies. The gay deaf community is very tight.

CM: What is it about deaf theater that is so moving?
AK: It’s an extremely powerful thing, first off, because of the sheer beauty of sign language. It’s a quiet language in terms of auditory impact, but so loud and bold in terms of visual experience. You get so much more out of the expression of the character through signing.

When we do deaf theater, usually there are two actors for each character, one signing and one speaking. Each signing actor must translate the text into ASL and to do that they must analyze the character’s intent, emotions, how the story the changing them physically. It’s a powerful way of communicating drama.

CM: Why did you choose to produce Durang’s “Beyond Therapy?”
AK: It’s tremendously funny play. All the relationships shown are ones we really know from real life, just exaggerated.

CM: That’s scary.
AK: Scary, but true. There are characters with lousy self-esteem who overcompensate with boldness. Characters indecisive about their sexuality. You have the sleazy shrink trying to get into his patients’ pants. And characters who mean well, but are pretty out there in the directions they take. They are all a couple hens short of a henhouse, like all of us.

In terms of signing, we’re taking a new approach with this play. All the actors playing characters are deaf, and we have just two actors to voice the roles, one speaking all the men’s parts and one for the women’s. It’s a great challenge for the actors voicing the roles, especially when everyone’s talking at once!

(( Source: Theater Gay City News ))

27 thoughts on “Interview with NYDT’s Deaf Gay Artistic Director”

  1. No, Ricky, you missed the point…

    It was his contributions to the Deaf community. I guess you didn’t read beyond that sentence?

    Your negativity is appalling. Not cute at all.

    Der Sankt

  2. I kinda question Aaron Kubey’s assumption about the deaf gay community being very tight. What he really meant by that?

    Let’s take a close look at the vague description like “deaf gay community is very tight”. Is Aaron speaking of the deaf gay community being socially tight or finanically tight?

    If yes about the deaf gay community being socially tight.
    How interesting for Aaron Kubey making such an assumption about the deaf gay community in that way? He is probably an excellent observer or make such an assumption in worst way.

    That is not totally true about the deaf gay community being socially tight or close-knit family.

    Several deaf heterosexuals told me that they noticed that there were such social fragementation among the deaf gay community thru blog postings and social interactions.

    Sadly, the gay American community is no longer a close-knit family which many of GLBT individuals let the community to be too commericalized and go the seperate ways.

    Deaf gay community somewhat splintered into several factions which the social gap between deaf gay males and deaf lebasians get widened everyday.

    Another faction of deaf gay community to be not really the close-knit family due to various communication preferences – ASL signers, deaf GLBTs with CI devices, oralists and whatever we call them. :)

    That’s what happened at last Saturday’s local DC deaf GLBT event. No deaf gay young people showed up at the dinner celebration for the anniversary of deaf gay organization, etc.

    Robert L. Mason (RLM)

  3. Interesting interview. Nice to see the media profiling us. And did I mention Aaron is hot?

  4. I agree with the comment from RLM. I don’t think the deaf gblt community is that close-knit. We do have our own little circles. But as a whole, we’re pretty divided. Take NYC for example. That’s the largest city in the USA and they don’t even have a deaf glbt organization. They haven’t for years. What does that tell you?

  5. Oh no, I am no Frazier. Sorry people!

    Rider, I’m shocked by your opinion of Ty. You’re famous for accusing most men of being “in the closet”.

  6. (munch, munch)

    Watching the latest shootout between Ridor and Ben.

    Who will win????

    (eyes go back and forth)

    (munch, munch, munch)

  7. I’d love to see Ben and Ridor in a phsycial cat fight. I can totally see them scratching each other and pull each other’s hair out. Ha ha ha.

    Aaron is a cuite.

  8. Ben, I”m not afraid of you. And I was NOT talking about you, dummy. I was referring to the guys who hide behind the monitors.

    Darren Fudenske, you were in the closet for *many* years and by itself, it is quite offensive.

    But knowing Ty Giordano for more than a decade, I can say with confidence that he is not gay. Don’t put your opinions in places that you do not know.

    R-

  9. Good interview!

    People, where’s the respect for each other? Everyone know the purpose of RESPECT, but it do not bother them to use the concept of respecting toward others.

    Speak of the interview:
    CM: You’re currently single, do you tend to date within the deaf community?
    AK: Both within and without. Some people prefer not to date another deaf gay person. It varies. The gay deaf community is very tight.

    I agree with that! Many deaf people always have the enemy problems with others because they don’t aware the fact of DEAF COMMUNITY IS VERY TIGHT. They all have their own vary individual clubs to join, etc. It got to stop war against each other.

    Where is our deaf and gay PRIDE!? Come on..

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