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Performance gives a window into deaf culture

Mixed Blood Theater performers, from left, Nic Zapko, as the deaf duckling, Erin McGovern, as the mother duck, and Teresa Chandler as various characters, perform the story of the "The Deaf Duckling" at Woodbury High School. Staff photo by Amber Kispert

Everyone is familiar with the beloved children's fairy tale "The Ugly Duckling," but the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis brought a different take on the story to Woodbury High School on Nov. 26 with their performance of "The Deaf Duckling" when they performed for both Woodbury and Park High School students.

"The Deaf Duckling" tells the story of Sam, a duckling who was born deaf to hearing parents. In addition to dealing with prejudice at school, Sam and her parents also struggle to adapt since it is difficult for them to communicate with each other, where Sam's mother wants her to learn to speak, Sam wants to be true to who she is and learn American Sign Language.

Kristin Kohmer, American Sign Language teacher at both Woodbury High School and Park High School, said she wanted to bring the performance to Woodbury because it gives students an opportunity to gain a better understanding of deaf culture and the problems they face.

"It's all about understanding and appreciating differences," she said. "It's getting kids exposed to that culture and understanding more than just the signs, it's understanding what a family goes through."

Sophomore Sarah Opitz, an ASL student, said she really enjoyed the performance and thought it was interesting to see that the students who are not familiar with ASL didn't understand some of the jokes in the play, particularly the mother's use of sign language.

"It was interesting how the mom was trying to symbolize with English, rather than using ASL," she said. "The way she was signing was really funny, but if you don't understand ASL, you didn't know that it was really funny."

Sophomore Emily Nielsen, a deaf student at Woodbury, said through an interpreter, that she really liked the play and thought it was pretty funny and echoes Opitz's comments that it was interesting to note that a lot of the students didn't understand the jokes.

Nielsen also noted how shocking it was to see so many students taking an interest in American Sign Language.

"It's really nice," she said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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