Deaf, hearing students team up for musical production

The cast of Once Upon a Mattress from the Lexington School for the Deaf performing the show at Queens Theatre

More than 40 hearing and Deaf young actors brought their two worlds together on the Queens Theatre’s Mainstage with their recent performances of Once Upon a Mattress.

The cast included students from the Lexington School for the Deaf and the Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts doubling up on roles in the light-hearted musical comedy based on “The Princess and the Pea.”

Although there may have been two performers for each part—one signing the dialogue and songs while the other one interpreted for those not versed in ASL—the show’s director doesn’t focus on the duality aspect of the show. 

“This is not two high schools onstage: this is one company,” Jared R. Lopatin wrote in the show’s playbill. “You are not seeing Deaf students act and hearing students interpret for them. You are seeing one cast performing for you.”

Lopatin, who is a digital media teacher at Lexington, has been directing the drama club’s shows for several years now. Under his tenure, Lexington actors have tackled everything from Shakespeare to farce to a production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, but this type of collaboration has been on Lopatin’s bucket list for some time.

“It’s been a dream of mine to see Deaf and hearing actors working together to create something magical,” Lopatin said. “We do not live in a vacuum. Theatre, especially, cannot happen alone. So, we share our cultures, our languages, our viewpoints, all while working toward a common goal.”

Inclusion is also an important goal for Queens Theatre and this production accomplished that and so much more. 

“We are thrilled we got to work with this amazing cast on this show,” Queens Theatre Executive Director Taryn Sacramone said. “It was an amazing show. And we are looking forward to working with the Lexington School for the Deaf on future projects.”