Detail View: RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive: Interview

Filename: 
ds_0027_bragginterview_cap_01.mp4
Identifier: 
ds_0027_bragginterview_cap_01.mp4
Title: 
Interview
Creator: 
Bragg, Bernard, 1928-2018
Subject: 
Bragg, Bernard, 1928-2018 Interviews
Subject: 
National Theatre of the Deaf History
Subject: 
American Sign Language literature
Subject: 
Deaf, Writings of the, American
Subject: 
Deaf, Theater for the
Subject: 
Deaf Poetry
Subject: 
ASL poetry
Summary: 
Part of a collection of interviews made for a film on ASL poetry, "The Heart of the Hydrogen Jukebox." In this interview, Deaf poet, actor, and playwright Bernard Bragg discusses his long career. Bragg, asked to define poetry said "Poetry is like trying to capture the wind, but once it is caught, it is no longer the wind." He discusses poetry in his life and the influence of Dr. Robert Panara, the first Deaf teacher he met at the Fanwood School for the Deaf, and his Deaf father, an artistic signer who often performed at Deaf clubs. Their influence led him to write his own poetry. Dr. Robert Panara helped him to understand the English plays and poetry which he would act out and translate into sign. He also discusses the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD- he was one of the co-founders) and Dorothy Miles's work in poetry which was unique as she incorporated both English and ASL which was understandable in both languages. He encouraged her to join the NTD. They worked together on Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas which was presented as a play. He credits Dorothy Miles with starting ABC stories in the late 1960s which had never been done before. Bragg shares Beluggi's and Stokoe's research about ASL. He had a hard time accepting it as a language at first because of the emphasis on learning English to interact with the hearing world. He realized that it is a language in its own right, which he had been using to express himself artistically. At the NTD, he did some translation work from English to sign language and Dorothy Miles assisted him in looking at the beauty of sign language as well as English. Bragg also talks about his performance that he will do that night, 'Theatre in the Sky'. He wrote a song for they 'eye', not the 'ear', using just signs. That was the first time he wrote a song in sign format, with no words. He talks about the 'Flying Song' in which he incorporates visual rhyme signs for countries, states, and cities. Visual vernacular is a method Bragg developed after studying with Marcel Marceau. This method uses filming editing techniques using signs to show close-ups, zooming, and different shots which is like watching a movie. Stokoe noted this and Dirksen Bauman discussed this further in analyzing poetical works. At the NTD where he worked for over 30 years, he taught some of the emerging poets such as Peter Cook, Clayton Valli, Patrick Graybill, and Ella Mae Lentz. Dr. Robert Panara is not considered an ASL poet like Valli, Cook, and Lentz. Panara did sign transliterations of English poems. Deaf people from hearing and Deaf families produce work that are different in Bragg's opinion. He discusses political poetry that Lentz did about oppression of ASL, and the variety of themes one can explore in ASL poetry. Bragg is puzzled as to why there is not more ASL literature and poetry. He wonders whether Deaf students are being exposed to these works through videotapes, and encouraging them to explore ASL creative expression.
Publisher: 
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Digital Publisher: 
Rochester Institute of Technology - RIT Libraries - RIT Archive Collections
Contributor: 
Lerner, Miriam Nathan
Date of Original: 
2007
Date of Digitization: 
2018
Broad Type: 
moving image
Digital File Format: 
mp4
Physical Format: 
DVD
Dimensions of Original: 
88 minutes
Language: 
American Sign Language
Language: 
English
Original Item Location: 
RITDSA.0027
Library Collection: 
Sculptures in the Air: An Accessible Online Video Repository of the American Sign Language (ASL) Poetry and Literature Collections
Library Collection: 
Miriam and Kenneth Lerner ASL Literature Collection
Digital Project: 
2018-2019 CLIR Grant-ASL Poetry and Literature
Catalog Record: 
https://albert.rit.edu/record=b3955850
Catalog Record: 
https://archivesspace.rit.edu/repositories/2/resources/815
Place: 
New York - Rochester
RIT Spaces and Places: 
Henrietta Campus
Rights: 
RIT Libraries makes materials from its collections available for educational and research purposes pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. It is your responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.
Rights: 
CC BY-NC-ND: Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Transcript: 
POETRY. HUH. POETRY IS LIKE-- I REMEMBER A QUOTE I READ SOMEWHERE A WHILE AGO. IT SAID, "POETRY IS LIKE TRYING TO CATCH THE WIND. ONCE IT'S CAUGHT, IT'S NO LONGER THE WIND." I DON'T KNOW IF THAT'S A GOOD DEFINITION, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE A TOUGH THING TO EXPLAIN. IT'S KIND OF A WAY OF EXPRESSING ONE'S SELF, BUT THE WAY THAT EXPRESSION IS PUT FORTH IS VERY CONDENSED. A NOVEL IS A VERY LONG, DRAWN-OUT WAY OF SHOWING A STORY, BUT POETRY IS A SHORTER FORM... BUT, AGAIN, I WOULD SAY IT'S LIKE TRYING TO CAPTURE THE WIND, AND ONCE IT'S CAUGHT, IT'S NO LONGER THE WIND. IT'S LIKE-- I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S-- YOU WOULD DESCRIBE IT LIKE A BLIND PERSON, TRYING TO DESCRIBE COLOR TO THEM OR AN ARTIST, HOW DO THEY DESCRIBE THEIR OWN WORK. I'VE WRITTEN POETRY, BUT CAN I DESCRIBE MY OWN WORK? IT'S MAYBE FROM DEEP WITHIN, PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND EXPRESSION. I WRITE FOR MYSELF FIRST, AND THEN I LET OTHER PEOPLE READ AND SHARE IN IT. "SHARING," THAT'S A GOOD WORD. MAYBE THAT'S THE KEY OF EVERYTHING, SHARING YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS IN A DIFFERENT WAY SO THAT IT IMPACTS YOUR READER. WHEN I HAD MY VERY FIRST DEAF TEACHER-- NAMED BOB PANERA, ROBERT F. PANERA-- HE WAS REALLY THE FIRST DEAF TEACHER I HAD IN SCHOOL. I WAS 16 YEARS OLD. I HAD READ POETRY. NO. NOW WAIT. I REMEMBER I STARTED READING POETRY. I HAD A LARGE ANTHOLOGY FROM THE LIBRARY, "AMERICAN LITERATURE," AND I DID READ SOME POETRY IN THAT BOOK, AND I LIKED IT. THAT WAS WHEN I WAS 13 OR 14 YEARS OLD. NO ONE REALLY SHOWED ME OR TAUGHT ME OR SHOWED ME HOW TO SIGN IT. I JUST READ IT AND ENJOYED IT FOR THE WORDS THEMSELVES. IT WASN'T UNTIL I HAD BOB AS A TEACHER AND HE JOINED THE FACULTY. HE WAS FRESH OUT OF GALLAUDET HIMSELF, BRAND-NEW TEACHER, AND WE WERE HIS FIRST STUDENTS, AND I WAS SO EAGER AND ENJOYED HIS CLASSES. HE TAUGHT US POETRY AND ACTING, SO MAYBE-- DOES THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTION? OH, YES, FROM FAMILY. WELL, MY FATHER WAS AN ACTOR, AND HE WAS VERY POETIC HIMSELF. HE WROTE POETRY. I DIDN'T READ IT BECAUSE MY MOTHER HAD DESTROYED ALL HIS WORK, HIS POETIC WORK, WHEN THEY SEPARATED. I WAS ABOUT 1 1/2 OR TWO YEARS OLD. SHE GOT VERY ANGRY AND DESTROYED ALL THE POETRY HE HAD WRITTEN FOR HER WHEN THEY WERE COURTING. I WAS SO UPSET WHEN I HEARD THAT HAD HAPPENED, BUT WHEN I HEARD MY FATHER WROTE POETRY... I HAD NOTICED THAT HE WAS VERY POETIC IN HIS EXPRESSION. WHEN HE SIGNED, HE WAS SUCH A GOOD SIGNER, AND LET ME SHOW YOU AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING HE DID. HE MIGHT TALK ABOUT WALKING THROUGH THE FOREST, AND HE LOOKS OVER AT A BROOK THAT'S TUMBLING OVER ROCKS, AND THE TREES ARE OVERHEAD, AND A BEAUTIFUL, BLUE SKY AND BUTTERFLIES. IT WAS LIKE THAT, OR ANOTHER EXAMPLE, HE MIGHT TALK ABOUT THE WATER TUMBLING OVER THE LARGER ROCKS AND ALMOST LIKE IT WAS FLOWING OVER A MAN'S SHOULDERS, OR HE'D TALK ABOUT THE WATER FLOWING OVER SMALLER ROCKS, AND IT LOOKED LIKE A WOMAN WASHING HER HANDS. NO, NOT IN REGULAR CONVERSATION, BUT WHEN HE TOLD A STORY, IT WAS A VERY POETIC WAY. HE DIDN'T PAY ATTENTION TO RULES OR GRAMMAR. IT WAS THE MOVEMENT OF HIS HANDS AND HIS FACIAL EXPRESSION. EVERYTHING WAS THERE. IT WAS VERY POETIC IN AND OF ITSELF. YES. I THINK HE DID HAVE SOME INFLUENCE ON ME. I REALLY GIVE HIM CREDIT FOR THAT. I REALLY ENJOYED WATCHING THE MOVEMENT OF HIS HANDS AND THE SHAPES OF HIS SIGNS. OH, YES. I BELIEVE THAT WAS AN INFLUENCE AND ALSO THAT BOB PANERA REALLY TAUGHT ME THE ESSENCE OF ENGLISH. IT WOULD BECOME MUCH MORE MEANINGFUL WHEN I LEARNED ABOUT IT. I WOULD WATCH HIM ACTING OUT A POEM, LIKE CYRANO DE BERGERAC-- HIS FAMOUS, LONG SPEECH ABOUT HIS NOSE-- OR HAMLET. HE WOULD SIGN "MACBETH" AND THE SOLILOQUYS. LET ME THINK. HE DID SHELLEY, WADSWORTH, SO MANY DIFFERENT POETS, WHITMAN... SO MANY. I REALLY APPRECIATED THAT. I LEARNED HOW TO SIGN. I COPIED HOW HE SIGNED ALL THESE POEMS, AND I LEARNED THE POETRY THIS WAY. I WAS ABOUT 13 YEARS OLD WHEN I PERFORMED A POEM BY A TEST PILOT CALLED JOHN COLLINS. HE HAD WRITTEN A POEM BEFORE HE DIED. HE WAS A TEST PILOT FOR A BOMBER, AND AFTER HE WAS KILLED IN A CRASH, HIS WIFE FOUND THIS POEM THAT HE HAD WRITTEN PORTENDING HIS OWN DEATH. IT WAS VERY POWERFUL. IT WAS AS IF HE HAD PREDICTED THAT THIS WAS THE WAY THAT HE WOULD ACTUALLY DIE. HE TALKED ABOUT HOW HE DIED. I SIGNED ALL THESE WRITTEN WORDS. I SIGNED IT IN FRONT OF ABOUT 400 DEAF PEOPLE AT THE DEAF CLUB ONE NIGHT. MY FATHER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE HEADLINER, BUT HE SUDDENLY BECAME ILL, AND I HAD TO REPLACE HIM THAT NIGHT, SO I MEMORIZED THIS VERY LONG POEM, AND I SIGNED IT IN FRONT OF THE AUDIENCE. I JUST LOVE POETRY SO MUCH, I HAD THIS CRAVING FOR POETRY AND PERFORMANCE FROM A VERY YOUNG AGE. I HAD GOTTEN THAT SOMEWHAT FROM MY FATHER. HE HAD THAT POETIC SORT OF EXPRESSION AND THOUGHT AND WRITING AND SIGNING THAT HE PASSED ON TO ME. HE WAS A BIG INFLUENCE ON ME... BUT I HAVE TO SAY THAT BOB PANERA WAS THE ONE WHO INGRAINED THE ENGLISH INFLUENCE IN ME, SO I HAD THE SIGN INFLUENCE FROM MY DAD AND ENGLISH FROM BOB PANERA, AND I FEEL THAT IT IS THE COMBINATION OF THOSE TWO THAT HAS MADE ME WHO I AM. THE FIRST TWO YEARS, OH, YES. YES. NO, NOT REALLY. IT WAS ALL TOGETHER. IT WAS WHILE I WAS GROWING UP. THE FIRST TIME THAT I ACTUALLY WROTE A POEM, I WAS IN COLLEGE. OH, YES. THIS IS INTERESTING. WHEN BOB PANERA JOINED THE FACULTY IN MY SCHOOL, ABOUT 3 MONTHS LATER, THEY CALLED AN ASSEMBLY TO GO INTO THE CHAPEL. EVERYBODY WAS SITTING THERE IN THE AUDIENCE. WE REALLY DID NOT KNOW WHAT IT WAS FOR, AND THEY MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT BOB HAD WON THIS AWARD AND A MEDAL. IT WAS AN AWARD FOR CREATIVE POETRY, AND THAT WAS FROM GALLAUDET, WHO HAD ESTABLISHED THIS AWARD. THEY HAD NOT NECESSARILY PUBLICIZED WHO THE RECIPIENT WAS. THEY WANTED TO WAIT. THEY SENT IT TO THE SCHOOL, AND THEY WANTED TO PRESENT IT AND MAKE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT IN FRONT OF OUR WHOLE ASSEMBLY THAT HE HAD RECEIVED THIS. BOB WAS SHOCKED. HE CAME UP ON STAGE, AND HE RECEIVED THIS MEDAL. LATER, I WENT TO HIS CLASSROOM BECAUSE I REALLY WANTED TO SEE THE MEDAL, AND HE SHOWED IT TO ME. I LOOKED UP AT HIM, AND I LOOKED AT THE MEDAL, AND THERE WAS AN INSCRIPTION ON THE BACK, AND IT SAID, "CREATIVE POETRY," AND SOME OTHER THINGS ON THE INSCRIPTION, AND I ASKED HIM, "DO YOU THINK I CAN WRITE POETRY, AS WELL?" AND HE SAID, "WHY NOT? GO AHEAD AND TRY IT. GO AHEAD AND WRITE." I SAID, "BUT THE WORDS, THE SOUNDS, HOW AM I GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT?" "WELL," HE SAID, "GET YOURSELF A RHYMING DICTIONARY," AND THAT IS HOW I BECAME MORE AND MORE INVOLVED IN THE WHOLE PROCESS, BECAUSE I WOULD READ HOW THE WORDS WOULD RHYME, AND I WOULD FIGURE OUT HOW TO PUT THEM IN A POETIC FORMAT, AND THAT'S WHEN I STARTED WRITING. I DIDN'T REALLY GET MORE INTO IT TILL I WENT INTO COLLEGE. THAT IS WHEN IT REALLY TOOK OFF, AND THEN I WROTE SOME POEMS THAT WERE PRINTED IN THE AMERICAN COLLEGE POETIC COMPETITION VOLUME, AND I GOT IN ONCE, TWICE, 3 TIMES. I KEPT GETTING MORE PUBLISHED, AND I HAVE POEMS THAT I WROTE BACK THEN IN MY BIOGRAPHY "SOUNDS OF SILENCE." IN MY SENIOR YEAR, BOB, WHO WAS AT GALLAUDET, ANNOUNCED THE WINNER, AND IT WAS MYSELF. I RECEIVED THE SAME MEDAL THAT HE HAD RECEIVED EARLIER. IT MADE ME REALLY PROUD, AND IT MEANT REALLY A LOT TO ME. OH, YES. STORYTELLING IS DIFFERENT. IT'S DIFFERENT. I'M NOT SURE I UNDERSTAND YOUR QUESTION. WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ASL STORYTELLING AND ASL POETRY? THEY'RE SIMILAR YET DIFFERENT, OF COURSE, BECAUSE WHEN YOU'RE SPEAKING ENGLISH AND TELLING A STORY IN ENGLISH OR WRITTEN POETRY IS IN ENGLISH, THAT'S SIMILAR, BUT IT'S DIFFERENT THAN EXPRESSING IT IN ASL OR ASL POETRY. IT'S KIND OF A LONG WAY. IT'S A NOVEL, I WOULD CALL A NARRATIVE, AND A POETRY IS A MORE CONDENSED VERSION. MAYBE I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOUR QUESTION. OH, YES. WHEN THAT STARTED, THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF THE DEAF, YES. DOROTHY MILES WAS INVOLVED IN ITS INCEPTION, AND SHE PLAYED A LOT WITH POETIC SIGNING. WE WORKED TOGETHER A LOT. WE COLLABORATED TOGETHER. THE TWO OF US WOULD INVENT SIGNS FOR THE PLAYS THAT WE WERE STAGING FOR THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF THE DEAF. LET ME SEE. WHAT WAS THE TITLE OF THE BIG ONE WE DID? "UNDER MILK WOOD." WE TOOK "UNDER MILK WOOD," BY DYLAN THOMAS, AND WE CHANGED IT TO "SONGS OF MILK WOOD." WE WOULD MAKE THIS BEAUTIFUL LANGUAGE BY DYLAN THOMAS-- IT WAS VERY FLOWERY AND QUITE LOVELY, AND WE WERE TRANSLATING IT INTO SIGN LANGUAGE AND TRYING TO MAKE IT EQUIVALENT, AND THEN WE PRESENTED IT AS A PLAY. IT WAS VERY SUCCESSFUL. LET ME SEE. DID YOU ASK ME ABOUT, YES, ABC STORIES, WHEN THEY BEGAN? WELL, DOROTHY GAVE A WORKSHOP ABOUT ABC STORIES AT THE TIME, AND THAT STARTED A TREND THAT CONTINUES TILL THIS DAY. NOBODY HAD REALLY PLAYED WITH THAT BEFORE, SO I'M HERE TO TELL YOU THAT DOROTHY MILES IS THE ONE WHO STARTED THAT. NO. NO, NO, NO. IT HAD NOT BEEN AROUND BEFORE THE SIXTIES. I MEAN, WE FOUNDED THE NATIONAL THEATRE FOR THE DEAF IN '66, '67, '68. YES. RIGHT AROUND THERE IS WHEN DOROTHY JOINED, SO I'D SAY '68, '69 IS WHEN THESE ABC STORIES KIND OF HIT TOWN, AND FROM THAT TIME FORWARD, THEY REALLY TOOK OFF, BUT NOT BEFORE THAT. I MEAN, IF SOMEONE WANTS TO PROVE ME WRONG, THAT'S FINE, BUT TO MY KNOWLEDGE, SHE WAS THE ONE THAT STARTED THAT FAD. NO. IT BEGAN IN THE SIXTIES AND CONTINUED AFTER THAT POINT. WELL, REALLY, THE TWO OF US WERE VERY GOOD FRIENDS. WE WERE FRIENDS BEFORE WE'D EVEN MET, ACTUALLY, BECAUSE I'D BEEN READING HER POETRY FOR A WHILE BEFORE I MET HER IN PERSON. YOU KNOW, IT WAS IN THE GALLAUDET LIT. REVIEW. I WAS SO COMPELLED WITH THE WAY SHE WROTE, AND SHE HAD SEEN MY WORK IN THEATER, AND SHE HAD SEEN HOW I PERFORMED. WE FINALLY MET IN PERSON. THEN I SAID, "COME ON. COME JOIN NTD," AND SHE WAS THRILLED TO DO SO. SHE HAD ALWAYS WANTED TO. SHE WAS QUITE EXCITED AND DID JOIN. IT ESTABLISHED A FRIENDSHIP THAT'S LASTED A LONG TIME BETWEEN US. I ASKED HER, "HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WRITING SOME POEMS WITH SIGN LANGUAGE IN MIND AT THE SAME TIME?" SHE SAID, "WELL, THAT WOULD BE AN INTERESTING THING TO TRY," AND THAT IS WHAT SHE DID FROM THEN ON. SHE WOULD WRITE POEMS THINKING OF THE SIGNING SHE WOULD USE AS SHE COMPOSED THE POEMS, SO I FEEL THAT MAYBE I HAD AN INFLUENCE ON HER FOR HAVING HER ATTEMPT THAT, AND SHE CREATED QUITE A LEGACY OF POETRY AFTER THAT. BECAUSE WE WERE WORKING TOGETHER AT THAT TIME AND WE HAD STARTED WITH THIS DYLAN THOMAS PROJECT THAT I MENTIONED BEFORE, "UNDER MILK WOOD," AND SO THAT PROCESS OF LOOKING AT THE LANGUAGE, THE WRITTEN LANGUAGE, AND THEN TRANSLATING THAT INTO SIGN, I THINK THAT SHE WAS INSPIRED BY THAT, AND THEN AS SHE STARTED WRITING MORE AND MORE, SHE KEPT SIGN LANGUAGE IN MIND CONSTANTLY AS SHE WROTE THE ENGLISH, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. I THINK THAT HAD A GREAT INFLUENCE ON HER. YES. I SEE PARALLELS BETWEEN DOT MILES AND SYLVIA PLATH. THEY BOTH HAD DEEP GRIEF THAT THEY WERE EXPRESSING WITH THEIR WRITING. YEAH, SO A LOT OF PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT SHE COMMITTED SUICIDE. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT. I THINK IT WAS AN ACCIDENT. SHE FELL FROM THE SECOND STORY. IT WAS A SMALL FALL. REALLY, YOU DON'T TRY AND KILL YOURSELF FROM JUMPING FROM THE SECOND OR THIRD STORY. YOU GO UP TO THE 12th OR 13th. I DON'T KNOW IF SHE HAD FORGOTTEN TO TAKE HER MEDICINE THAT DAY. IT WAS A VERY UNBALANCED TIME, BUT SHE LOVED TO SIT IN THE WINDOWSILL AND LOOK OUT AND SING TO HERSELF. SHE HAD A VERY SMALL APARTMENT THERE, AND I FEEL LIKE WHAT HAPPENED IS, SHE FELL ON THE WROUGHT-IRON FENCE, AND SHE WAS CAUGHT ON ONE OF THE SPIKES OF THE WROUGHT-IRON FENCE, AND SHE BLED TO DEATH. IF SOMEONE HAD CAUGHT HER, SHE LANDED ON THE GROUND, SHE MIGHT NOT HAVE DIED. FROM THE SECOND FLOOR, THAT'S NOT THAT FAR. I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK SO, BUT I DON'T BELIEVE THAT. SHE HAD A REAL ZEST FOR LIFE. SHE GOT BETTER AND BETTER WITH HER WORK, AND SHE WENT BACK TO ENGLAND, AND SHE STARTED TAKING HER MEDICINE. SHE FOUND HER OWN PLACE, AND SHE WORKED A LOT FOR THE BRITISH, THE DEAF ASSOCIATIONS. SHE HELPED WRITE A DICTIONARY OF SIGN LANGUAGE. SHE WAS CALLED TO PRESENT MANY WORKSHOPS, AND SHE WAS VERY EXCITED ABOUT HER LIFE. THE DRAMA CLUB AT GALLAUDET INVITED HER AND GAVE HER AN AWARD, AND SHE WAS HAPPY ABOUT THAT. OH, YES. I WAS PUZZLED, BUT I REMEMBER BUYING THE BOOK AND LOOKING THROUGH IT AND NOT REALLY UNDERSTANDING IT, BUT STOKOE HAD NOT REALLY STARTED THAT RESEARCH. IT WAS REALLY URSULA BELLUGI WHO BEGAN IT. THAT'S WHERE THE TRUE RESEARCH BEGAN. IT WAS WITH BELLUGI, SO WHEN I LOOKED IT UP BY STOKOE, I LOOKED AT THE IDEAS IN IT, AND I THOUGHT, "FINE. THAT MAKES SENSE TO ME," BUT IT WAS NOT UNTIL I BECAME FRIENDS WITH DR. BELLUGI, SIGNED WITH A "U" ON THE CHEEK LIKE THIS... BUT YOU KNOW BASICALLY IF WAS JUST A FEW YEARS AFTER NTD WAS FOUNDED. NTD WAS FOUNDED IN '67, AND BELLUGI'S RESEARCH IN THE LAB WAS AROUND '70 OR '73. THAT'S WHEN THEY COINED THIS NEW NAME FOR SIGN LANGUAGE. THEY CALLED IT-- WE'D ALWAYS CALLED IT OUR LANGUAGE, THE SIGN LANGUAGE, BUT THEY CALLED IT ASL, AND THAT'S WHEN WE STARTED KIND OF DISCUSSING THIS AND DEBATING THIS... AND I THOUGHT THAT PERHAPS I WAS WRONG, AND SHE PROVED ME WRONG, AND I STARTED ANALYZING WHAT I'D BEEN THINKING ALL ALONG AS I WAS GROWING UP. I'D JUST SIGNED, BUT I'D ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT ENGLISH, YOU KNOW, THAT'S THE WORLD LANGUAGE. EVERYONE USES ENGLISH. I'D GROWN UP TAUGHT THAT ENGLISH WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO LEARN AND SIGN LANGUAGE WAS DIFFERENT. YOU ONLY USE IT IN YOUR OWN WORLD, YOUR SMALL GROUP OF PEOPLE. THAT'S FOR US, BUT IN THE GREATER WORLD TO BE SUCCESSFUL, WE NEEDED TO LEARN ENGLISH, AND ASL WAS INSIGNIFICANT, BUT NOW I HAD PROOF RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I REALIZED I HAD TO ACCEPT FULLY AT THAT POINT THAT IT IS TRUE. ASL IS A REAL, IN-DEPTH LANGUAGE, AND SO I STARTED LOOKING AT MY OWN SIGN LANGUAGE. I LOOKED AT VIDEOTAPES I MADE ALL ALONG. SHE AND I WERE FRIENDS AT THE TIME, AND FINALLY SHE ADMITTED TO ME THAT-- SHE SAID, "YOU'RE RIGHT IN A WAY, "BUT WE CAN'T KEEP ASL PURE. "ENGLISH WILL INFLUENCE IT, BUT IT CAN STILL STAND ALONE SEPARATE FROM ENGLISH." POETRY AND STORIES, IT'S VERY EXCITING. FOR SURE. YES. I AGREE. YES, DEFINITELY. YES. I'VE GONE THROUGH THAT MYSELF, THE CHANGE. AT FIRST, I WAS VERY RESISTANT, OF COURSE... BUT AFTER A WHILE, I GRADUALLY DID ACCEPT IT, AND I REALIZED THAT IT WAS PART OF MY ESSENCE TRULY. YES. YOU KNOW, I HAD SIGNED MY WHOLE LIFE. ASL WAS FUN. I LOVE STORYTELLING IN ASL. MY FATHER, OF COURSE, WAS QUITE AN ACCOMPLISHED STORYTELLER, AND I PICKED UP SO MANY TIPS FROM HIM. YOU KNOW, WE WOULD SIT AROUND IN SCHOOL. WE'D TELL STORIES IN SIGN. DO YOU KNOW, I DID NOT REALLY SEE IT AS A LANGUAGE ITSELF. YOU KNOW, WE'RE JUST A SMALL MINORITY GROUP. WE USE IT AMONGST OURSELVES, BUT OUR TRUE STRUGGLE WAS TO IMPROVE OUR ENGLISH TO SUCCEED IN THE WORLD, IN THE HEARING WORLD. THAT WAS ALWAYS THE GOAL. PEOPLE LOOKED DOWN ON ASL. IT WAS A SMALL, LITTLE LANGUAGE USED IN OUR CIRCLE. NOW WE KNOW IT'S ON THE PAR WITH ENGLISH, AND IT'S IMPORTANT. IT'S GOT THE RESPECT IT DESERVES, BUT THAT WAS NOT TRUE IN MY TIME. THERE WAS A LOT OF DIFFICULTY UP UNTIL NOW. IT WAS LIKE THE BIRTH OF ASL WAS ESTABLISHED. THE LINGUISTIC WORLD WAS READY, SO YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WHERE I'M COMING FROM, AND THIS WAS AN ISSUE WITH M.J. BIENVENU AND I. WE USED TO HAVE THESE GREAT TESTS OF WILLS. YOU KNOW, SHE'S FROM A DIFFERENT GENERATION THAN I. SHE GREW UP ALREADY FEELING THAT IT WAS LANGUAGE IN ITS OWN RIGHT. WE'RE GOOD FRIENDS NOW, AND THOSE ARGUMENTS ARE BEHIND US. I WORKED AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE FOR THE DEAF, AND IT WAS A PARTICULAR ONUS OF MINE TO DO THE TRANSLATION, A BIG RESPONSIBILITY FOR ME IN ABOUT 1967 BECAUSE THERE WERE NO ROLE MODELS. THERE WERE NO PRECURSORS FOR THIS SORT OF WORK THAT I WAS DOING. WE HAD TO DO SOME APPROXIMATION OF SIGNING TO THE ENGLISH. FINALLY, PEOPLE WERE SAYING, "YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE "TO TRY AND FORCE THE THINGS INTO A BETTER SORT OF RENDITION OF SIGN LANGUAGE." WHEN I WORKED WITH DOT MILES, IT WAS A WHOLE DIFFERENT SORT OF PROCESS. SHE SAID, "NO. YOU DON'T HAVE TO FORCE IT. "WE HAVE TO KEEP THE POETRY. WE HAVE TO KEEP THE BEAUTY OF IT." DOT MILES, YOU KNOW, HAD THIS BEAUTIFUL WAY OF SIGNING ENGLISH. SHE COULD RELATE THE SIGNS TO THE ENGLISH AND ENGLISH TO THE SIGNS... REALLY AMAZING WAY. IT WAS VERY INTERESTING, HOW SHE MADE THOSE SORT OF CONNECTIONS. SOME PEOPLE THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KEEP IT TRULY SEPARATE. I WAS OPEN ENOUGH TO THE PROCESS TO TRY TO TAKE THIS PLUNGE AND MAKE SOME SORT OF AMALGAMATION OF IT. YOU KNOW, IT'S KIND OF A SINK-OR-SWIM KIND THING, BUT I GREW IN UNDERSTANDING MORE AS THE PROCESS CONTINUED. YOU KNOW, I REALIZED THAT THIS WAS NOT ANYTHING LIKE ABC STORIES. WE WERE DOING SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT HERE. I ENJOYED WATCHING OTHER PEOPLE DO ABC STORIES. THEY'RE EITHER FUN OR THEY WERE NOT MY THING, REALLY. YOU FOLLOWED ABC STRUCTURE, BUT THERE'S NO DEPTH OF FEELING. THERE ARE NO HEAVY IDEAS. IT'S KIND OF CUTE. OH, YES, BUT NOT ABC STORIES. OH, YES. I'M THINKING, WAS THAT-- THE WORD AMALGAMATION, YES, IT IS VERY DIFFERENT. I AGREE. THE WORD AND WHAT IT'S TRULY EXPRESSING WITH ABC, YOU KNOW, THERE'S NO WORDS THERE AT ALL. WITH WORDS AND THEIR MEANING, YES, I UNDERSTAND. YEAH, THE STORY BEHIND IT, TRUE. WELL, MOVEMENT-- IS THAT WHAT YOU MEAN, BODY LANGUAGE AND EXPRESSION, BODY EXPRESSION? OF COURSE YOU USE YOUR BODY LANGUAGE, AS WELL. YES. YOU DO SEE THAT. UH, I'M NOT SURE IF I UNDERSTAND YOUR QUESTION. YES, LARGE MOVEMENT. YES. IT'S VERY DIFFERENT. WHEN YOU'RE PERFORMING SOMETHING, YOU STAY IN ONE PLACE. PATRICK GRAYBILL WOULD DO THAT. DOROTHY MILES WOULD MOVE AROUND. THIS OTHER PERSON DIDN'T MOVE VERY MUCH, EITHER, ONLY USED THEIR ARMS MOSTLY FOR EXPRESSION. GRAMMAR-- NO. I DIDN'T HAVE A PROBLEM READING OR UNDERSTANDING THEIR POETRY. I UNDERSTOOD IT RIGHT AWAY. I DIDN'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT, MAYBE THE ENGLISH, AS WELL. I WOULD READ SOME PARTS I WOULD UNDERSTAND. SOME I DIDN'T. I'D HAVE TO READ IT A SECOND AND THIRD TIME. IT WAS NEVER PERFECT. YES. I'M AS AT HOME WITH PERFORMING IN ASL. I MEAN, I GREW UP WITH IT. I IMMEDIATELY THINK IN ASL AND PERFORM THAT WAY. MAYBE A NEW SIGNER OR HEARING PERSON MIGHT HAVE TROUBLE FOLLOWING IT. YES. I HAVE ONE I CAN SHOW YOU. I HAVE ONE FOR YOU. IT'S CALLED "DEATH." DEATH. WHAT IS IT? CLOSED EYES, HANDS ACROSS ONE'S CHEST, AND A SENSE OF PEACE, LOWERED INTO THE GROUND AND BURIED, PEACE AT LAST... BUT WAIT. PERHAPS THE SOUL WILL ASCEND TO HEAVEN AND MEET THE CREATOR OR PERHAPS DESCEND TO THE DEPTHS AND MEET WHAT IS BELOW. WE JUST DON'T KNOW. WE WAIT, AND WE HOPE. OK. IF YOU NOTICED IN THAT POEM, FACIAL EXPRESSION PLAYS A MAJOR PART OF THE MEANING. THE FACE SPEAKS VOLUMES. THE HANDS ARE JUST MOVEMENTS OF THE SIGNS, OF COURSE, BUT THE FACIAL GRAMMAR IS CRUCIAL, SO "DEATH," THE SIGN FOR "DEATH," AND THE SIGN FOR "WHAT," AS IN "WHAT IS THAT?" ON MY FACE, YOU CAN SEE THAT AND THEN CLOSED EYES, THEN BURIED, PEACEFUL, WHATEVER, THEN, "WAIT A MINUTE. MAYBE WE WILL ASCEND." MAYBE THE DEAD PERSON WILL GO UP TO HEAVEN OR PERHAPS THE OTHER WAY, BUT WE DON'T KNOW. WE DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS, AND WHILE WE WAIT, WE HOPE. IT'S ALL THAT SIMPLE. NO. NO. I DON'T THINK FIRST IN WORDS. I THINK IN SIGNS FIRST. A FRIEND OF MINE WHO IS HEARING SAID, "WHAT KIND OF WORDS WOULD YOU GIVE TO INTERPRET FOR AN AUDIENCE?" AND I SAID, "MAYBE YOU SHOULD SPEAK THE WORDS FOR ME FIRST TO THE AUDIENCE-- "DEAF," "WHAT," "LOWERED," "INTO THE GRAVE," OR "BURIED." "YOU CAN SAY IT EITHER WAY-- "YOU KNOW, WORD, WORD, WORD, LIKE A GLOSS RENDITION-- "SO AT THE SAME TIME THAT I SIGN, "YOU SHOULD SAY IT THEN, OR SHOULD YOU SAY IT FIRST, "AND THEN I SIGN AFTERWARDS? "MAYBE PEOPLE HEAR IT AND UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT, "AND THEN THEY WATCH THE SIGNS AFTERWARD, AND MAYBE THEN THEY'LL BE ABLE TO CATCH IT." I PERFORMED THAT FOR A SMALL GROUP, FOR AN AUDIENCE, BUT IF I READ IT FOR DEAF PEOPLE, IT'S DIFFERENT, OF COURSE. ASL STUDENTS, PEOPLE WHO ARE STUDYING AND ANALYZING IT, YOU KNOW, IF THEY USE A VIDEOTAPE, THEN I CAN GIVE AN EXPLANATION TO BEGIN WITH, AND THEY CAN UNDERSTAND IT AFTERWARDS WITHOUT A VOCAL RENDITION. NO. I GAVE MY FRIEND THE WORDS. NO, BUT I WROTE A SONG, ACTUALLY, THAT I'LL BE SINGING TONIGHT. IT'S A SONG FOR THE EYE, NOT FOR THE EAR. I CAN SHOW IT TO YOU NOW IF YOU LIKE. DO YOU WANT IT WITHOUT WORDS, JUST THE SIGNS? WELCOME TO MY THEATER IN THE SKY, COMEDY, FLYING, FLYING AGAINST THE WIND. LET US FLY TOGETHER AGAINST THE WIND. FLY IN THE RAIN, THE LIGHTNING, THE STORMS. FLY HIGH OVER THE EARTH. FLY TO THE SUN. FLY TO THE MOON. FLY THROUGH THE WHITE CLOUDS IN THE SKY AND FLY THROUGH THE DARKNESS. IT IS A THEATER IN THE SKY, THE STORY OF MY LIFE. YES, MY LIFE, MY LIFE ON WINGS FULL OF SURPRISES AND HOPES AND ENJOYMENTS, FRUSTRATIONS AND FEARS, HAPPINESS AND LAUGHTER. THAT IS THE THEATER IN THE SKY. THE CLOUDS ARE LIKE THE CURTAINS THAT OPENED WIDE FOR ME UP IN THE SKY. THE STARS ARE THE FOOTLIGHTS AND STAGE LIGHTS, AND THE OTHER PASSENGERS ARE THE AUDIENCES UP IN THE SKY. THE ANGELS ARE OUR AUDIENCE, TOO. THE PLANE ITSELF IS THE STAGE. OTHER PASSENGERS ARE LIKE ACTORS, THE SAME AS I, AND THE PILOT IS LIKE A STAGE DIRECTOR. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ARE THE USHERS. THAT IS OUR THEATER IN THE SKY... THE STORY OF MY LIFE, YES, MY LIFE ON WINGS. I LIVE NOW AND LOOK BACK ON ALL THE TIMES THAT I HAVE GONE THROUGH AND TONIGHT I WILL PRESENT THEM TO YOU, SO STRAP ON YOUR SEAT BELTS. GET READY TO ENJOY THE RIDE. THESE ARE NO ENGLISH WORDS IN THAT, JUST ALL SIGNS FOR THE EYE, AND IT'S IN SORT OF A SONG FORMAT. IT'S MUSICAL IN A WAY. IT'S NOT A POEM. NOW, IT'S DIFFERENT. I HAD NEVER TRIED THIS BEFORE THE FIRST TIME I REALLY ATTEMPTED IT. I HAD TRIED TO WRITE, ACTUALLY, SORT OF THOSE WORDS IN A SONG, MUSIC FOR THE EYE. YES. OH, OK. YES. I FEEL IT VERY STRONGLY. I THINK I'VE ALWAYS BEEN MUSICALLY INCLINED EVER SINCE I WAS LITTLE. I GUESS SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST BORN THAT WAY. SOME ARE NOT. EVEN HEARING PEOPLE SOMETIMES DO NOT HAVE A SENSITIVITY FOR MUSIC. I WAS, BUT I WAS BORN DEAF. YES. I LIKE THAT. I DO HAVE ANOTHER SONG. IT'S "THE FLYING SONG." LET ME SEE. OH, IT'S THE NAMES OF COUNTRIES AND STATES, CITY SIGNS HERE IN AMERICA. I JUST PUT THEM ALL TOGETHER IN A SIGN SONG KIND OF THING. LET ME THINK. FLY TO EUROPE. FLY TO AFRICA. FLY TO ASIA. FLY TO HONG KONG. FLY, FLY, FLY ALL OVER THE WORLD. FLY TO SWEDEN, TO MOSCOW, TO LONDON. FLY, FLY, FLY. PHILADELPHIA, CHICAGO. FLY, FLY. LONDON, HONG KONG. ALL OVER THE WORLD, FLY. PHILADELPHIA, CHICAGO, ROCHESTER, AUSTIN. FLY, FLY. BALTIMORE, DETROIT. FLY, FLY ALL OVER THE WORLD. SEATTLE, PHOENIX, SOUTH CAROLINA, NORTH CAROLINA, MARYLAND, VIRGINIA. FLY, FLY, FLY ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND FINALLY, NEW YORK, NEW ORLEANS, AND FLY HOME TO LA-LA LAND. SO IF YOU NOTICE, THERE'S A VISUAL RHYME GOING ON, ESPECIALLY WITH, LIKE, "PHOENIX" AND "SEATTLE," "BALTIMORE," "DETROIT," THE MOVEMENT UP AND DOWN OR SIDE TO SIDE. IN ENGLISH, THERE WAS CORRESPONDING TO RHYMES, BUT WE HAVE TO DO VISUAL MOVEMENTS THAT WOULD BE A PARALLEL TO THAT STRUCTURE. IT'S A SIGN SONG. I'VE NEVER SEEN ANYBODY ELSE DO THAT BEFORE. PROBABLY FROM THE SONG AT GALLAUDET. YOU KNOW THAT SONG? I THINK THAT REALLY INFLUENCED ME, MAYBE THE RHYTHM OF THE SONG. IT WASN'T POETRY-- IT'S DIFFERENT-- BUT IT INFLUENCED MY PERFORMANCE ABOUT THE SKY AND FLYING... AND ALSO, I DEVELOPED SOMETHING CALLED VISUAL VERNACULAR, VV. IT'S A FORM OF MIME. IT'S NOT REALLY A FULL MIME STRUCTURE. I CHANGE IT INTO A SMALLER FRAME SIZE AND SOMEWHAT LIKE A FILM FRAME. IT'S AS IF YOU WERE EDITING BETWEEN DIFFERENT SHOTS-- CLOSE-UP, FAR AWAY. I REFER TO THIS AS VISUAL VERNACULAR FOR LACK OF A BETTER TERM. I THINK I DECIDED WHEN I WAS STUDYING MIME UNDER MARCEL MARCEAU THAT I WOULD TWEAK HIS METHODS SOMEWHAT, AND I CREATED THIS NEW SIGN FORM. IT IS VERY MUCH PART OF OUR LANGUAGE, ANYWAY. IT IS A DEAF WAY OF SIGNING. IT IS REALLY EMBEDDED WITHIN IT, AND I'VE BEEN TEACHING THIS PARTICULAR TECHNIQUE FOR MANY YEARS. SOME OF IT'S REALLY SUCCESSFUL, AND IT SEEMS TO HAVE REALLY TAKEN OFF AND SPREAD AROUND THE COUNTRY, BUT I DECIDED-- I DO HAVE A FEW STORIES I PRESENTED IN VV. I WILL BE SHOWING SOME TONIGHT AT THE PERFORMANCE. I CAN SHOW YOU A LITTLE BIT HERE JUST TO GIVE YOU AN IDEA OF WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. LET ME SHOW YOU ONE. IT'S AN OLDER ONE. I'VE DONE IT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. I'M NOT SURE IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS ONE BEFORE. UM, YOU HAVE--IT'S A HUNTER AND HIS DOG. HAVE YOU SEEN THAT ONE? NO. I DON'T WANT TO REPEAT MYSELF TO YOU IF YOU'VE ALREADY SEEN IT. YOU KNOW, IF YOU'VE SEEN IT, PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO SEE IT AGAIN. OK. IT USES CUTS AND EDITS, ZOOM IN, CLOSE-UPS. I DEVELOP VISUAL VERNACULAR AND KIND OF OVERLAID IT WITH POETRY AND SONG STYLE OF EXPRESSION VISUALLY. I PUT IT ALL TOGETHER AND MIXED IT UP AND THEN OFFERED IT TO THE AUDIENCE. THERE'S THE HUNTER. HE LOADS HIS GUN... GIVES A WHISTLE. "COME ON, BOY," AND HERE IS HIS DOG. THE HUNTER PATS HIM ON THE HEAD. THE DOG REACTS. THEY WALK THROUGH THE WOODS. ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE DOG STOPS. HE INDICATES THAT THERE'S A BIRD UP AHEAD. THE DOG POINTS. THE HUNTER BLOWS HIS WHISTLE. THE BIRD TAKES WING. THE HUNTER TAKES AIM AND KILLS IT. THE BIRD FLOPS DOWN TO THE GROUND, AND THE DOG RUNS OVER TO RETRIEVE IT, BRINGS IT BACK TO THE HUNTER, WHO PATS HIS HEAD... TAKES THE BIRD FROM THE DOG, AND THEY CONTINUE ON THEIR WAY. THE CAMERA FREEZES, AND THE DOG WINKS AT THE AUDIENCE. YOU CAN SEE IT'S LIKE WATCHING A WHOLE MOVIE. IT'S A FILM TECHNIQUE USING EDITING, CLOSE AND FAR SHOTS, DIFFERENT CHARACTERS GOING BACK AND FORTH IN THE FRAME TO THE CHARACTERS WITHIN THE STORY. THERE ARE 3 CHARACTERS IN THAT MOVIE TO SHOW. YOU CAN SIT IN ONE PLACE AN INCORPORATE ALL OF THOSE IN ONE FRAME JUST LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE ON TV. IT'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. THAT'S THE BASIC IDEA OF VISUAL VERNACULAR, SO THERE'S MIME, AND IT IS PART OF MY ASL STYLE. WILLIAM STOKOE SAW ME DOING THIS AND CALLED ME INTO HIS OFFICE ONE TIME AFTER HE SAW ME, AND I SHOWED HIM SEVERAL EXAMPLES OF MY VISUAL VERNACULAR, AND HE LOVED IT. HE SAID, "IT'S INTERESTING TO SEE THE NARRATIVE IN ASL, AND IT'S VERY CINEMATIC." WELL, I'D NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT BEFORE, AND STOKOE WROTE, "BERNARD BRAGG HAS DONE THIS WONDERFUL, CINEMATIC TECHNIQUE." WHEN I TELL THIS STORY WHEN I'M DESCRIBING THINGS, IT IS VERY CONDENSED. IT'S IN A PICTURE FORMAT. IT'S VERY SIMPLE, AND IT'S ACTUALLY INCORPORATED INTO NATURAL ASL SIGNING... AND SO NOW THERE IS A PROFESSOR AT GALLAUDET NAMED DIRKSEN SOMETHING-- I DON'T KNOW HIS LAST NAME-- AND HE'S USED THE TERMINOLOGY "CINEMATIC TECHNIQUE" TO APPLY TO MY WORK. I SAID, "NOW, YOU GOT TO GIVE ME CREDIT FOR THIS. I CONSTRUCTED IT," AND HE SAID, "OH, OF COURSE I WILL. I WILL GIVE YOU CREDIT." THERE ARE A LOT OF STUDIES BEING DONE ON ASL IN TERMS OF CINEMATIC AND FILM TECHNIQUES THAT ARE USED WITHIN IT. I TAUGHT VV FOR SEVERAL YEARS, AND YOU KNOW I WAS AT NTD FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS. I THINK THAT I'VE INFLUENCED MANY YOUNG PEOPLE WHO CAME TO OUR WORKSHOPS. I THINK A LOT OF THEM HAVE INCORPORATED IT INTO THEIR WORK. OH, YES. PETER COOK LEARNED A LOT FROM MY WORKSHOP WAY BACK IN THE DAY. I THINK HE HAS HAD A GREAT DEAL OF INFLUENCE ON HIM. I WATCH WHAT HE DOES NOW AND THINK, "WOW." IF A LITTLE BIT OF WHAT I TAUGHT HIM WAS IMPLANTED WITHIN HIM AND HE'S GROWN TO THAT EXTENT, THAT'S WONDERFUL. IT'S BEAUTIFUL. HIS WORK IS WONDERFUL. I COULD TELL YOU I PERFORMED AT GALLAUDET JUST LAST WEEK, AND AFTER THAT, SEVERAL PEOPLE CAME UP TO ME AND MADE VARIOUS COMMENTS. I JUST LOVED WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT MY WORK. I SAID, "REALLY? YOU SEE IT THAT WAY?" THEY SAID, "YES. IT'S LIKE 3-D." I SAID, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN?" THEY SAID THEY FELT LIKE THEY WERE IN THE STORY, IMMERSED IN THE STORY. I SAID, "OH, IT'S VERY 3-DIMENSIONAL," AND IT WASN'T WORD FOR WORD. THEY SAID THEY FELT LIKE THEY WERE IN THE PICTURE AND IT ZOOMED IN AND THEN SUDDENLY THEY WERE IN THE PICTURE. THEY SAID IT FELT LIKE IT HAPPENED TO THEM. THEY SAID IT WAS VERY FROM THE HEART AND THEY FELT THAT I WAS VERY IMMERSED IN MY STORY. IT WASN'T LIKE I WAS TELLING AN OBJECTIVE STORY. THEY SAID THEY JUST WERE ENTRANCED WITH HOW I TOLD THE STORY, AND YOU KNOW HOW I BEGIN. I SPELL MY NAME. I DON'T SPELL IT IN THE CONVENTIONAL WAY. I SPELL IT FROM RIGHT TO LEFT, FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE... SO THEY CAN READ IT AND FEEL IMMEDIATELY DRAWN IN. THEY DON'T HAVE TO REVERSE ANYTHING. I WANT THEN TO SEE THINGS THROUGH MY EYES SO THAT THEY CAN FEEL THE WAY THAT I FEEL AND SO THAT IT REALLY IS AN ALL-INCLUSIVE EXPERIENCE. I THINK THAT'S THE MARK OF A GOOD STORYTELLER. YES. A LITTLE GIRL CAME UP TO ME AFTER A PERFORMANCE, AND SHE SAID, "I LOOKED AT YOU, AND YOU LOOKED LIKE A MOVIE STAR." I SAID, "REALLY?" SHE SAID, "YES." DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? I HAD NO IDEA. YES. I THINK SO. YES. LITTLE GIRLS AND BOYS, THIS IS THEIR FIRST LANGUAGE, AND I THINK MAYBE LONG AGO, SIGNING OR GESTURE WAS THE FIRST LANGUAGE THAT PEOPLE USED. BEFORE THERE WAS WRITTEN LANGUAGE, PEOPLE DREW THINGS ON WALLS. THEY DREW STORIES, SO THROUGH ART AND THROUGH GESTURES, HOW THEY COMMUNICATED. I BELIEVE PICTURES WHERE THE FIRST LANGUAGE. IT'S ALMOST LIKE THERE WERE ALL THESE MOVIES PEOPLE WERE PRESENTING, LIKE THERE WAS A SABER-TOOTHED TIGER OVER THERE AND A PERSON SHOWS THAT, MIMES HAVE A SPEAR GO THROUGH THE TIGER AND KILLING IT AND THEN MAYBE BITING OFF A HUNK AND EATING IT AND THEN WINKING. WELL, MAYBE NOT THE WINKING PART. IF YOU WERE SEEING SOMETHING FROM THE TOP OF A TREE, DESCRIBING THAT, IF YOU'RE CLIMBING UP A TREE AND YOU SEE THE TIGER CLAWING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TREE AND HE WANTS TO COME UP AND YOU'RE LOOKING DOWN AT YOUR HAND, YOU'RE SHOWING THE TIGER IS BELOW YOU. SEE, YOU'RE SHOWING WHAT YOU'RE SEEING. THAT'S MY POINT OF VIEW... AND YOU SHOW THE ACTION OF WHAT THE TIGER IS DOING WITH YOUR OTHER HAND. YOU DON'T HAVE TO WATCH A MOVIE TO SEE THAT. I'M NOT SURE HOW THEY WOULD DO THAT. A LONG TIME AGO, I WOULD SAY, IN STORYTELLING THAT INFLUENCED ME AND MAYBE INFLUENCED MOVIES, BUT THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION. IT IS SOMETHING TO PONDER, TRYING TO IMAGINE WHAT CAVEMEN, CAVEPEOPLE THOUGHT AND HOW THEY COMMUNICATED AMONGST THEMSELVES. IF THEY WERE ON THE TOP OF THE TREE AND THEY WERE TRYING TO SAY THAT-- OR TELL SOMEONE LATER FROM THAT ANGLE LOOKING DOWN, HOW WOULD THEY SHOW THAT, OR SOMEONE LOOKING UP, WHAT DO YOU SEE WHEN YOU'RE LOOKING UP IN THE SKY? MAYBE THERE'S A BIRD, AND HOW WOULD THEY GESTURE A BIRD FLYING IF THEY DID NOT HAVE A VOCAL LANGUAGE OR A SPECIFIC SIGN LANGUAGE? OR A FISH IN THE WATER, THEY WOULD SHOW THIS FISH, AND THEY ARE TRYING TO RECOUNT HOW THEY SPEARED THIS FISH, BROUGHT IT OUT OF THE WATER, AND THEN THEY ATE IT. HOW WOULD THEY DO THAT? OH, YES. THE TWO OF US HAVE BEEN VERY GOOD FRIENDS FOR A LONG TIME, YES, MALZ AND I. HE'S VERY CLEVER, VERY CREATIVE, THE WAY HE PLAYS WITH HIS SIGNS AND HIS TRANSLATIONS, HIS ENGLISH WORDS INTO SIGN-- VERY FUN. NOT MUCH. NOT REALLY. I WAS REALLY ENTRANCED WITH "JABBERWOCKY" BECAUSE THE WORDS DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE. IT WAS SUCH A CHALLENGE FOR HIM TO TRANSLATE IT AND EXPAND UPON IT AND IMAGINE WHAT THE LANGUAGE MIGHT MEAN. HE WAS GREAT AT THAT. THAT WAS NOT THE ONLY THING THAT I KNOW OF HE DID ALONG THOSE LINES. HE DOES A LOT OF GOOD PLAYING WITH SIGN, A LOT OF JOKE IN SIGN, BUT I'VE NOT SEEN ANYTHING ELSE HE'S DONE LIKE THAT. HE MOSTLY WRITES A LOT OF SONGS. HE DOES A LOT OF WRITTEN ENGLISH. MOSTLY HIS WORK IS WRITTEN ENGLISH OF THE EAR, FOR THE MUSICALITY OF IT. YES. IT'S INTERESTING, THIS EAR-MUSIC KIND OF THING, BUT HE DOES NOT HEAR, OF COURSE. HE LOST HIS HEARING WHEN HE WAS A YOUNG BOY AND COULD HEAR BEFORE HE BECAME DEAF, SO I THINK HE STILL HAS A STRONG LOVE AND CONNECTION WITH SPOKEN ENGLISH AND THE WAY THE SOUNDS WORK. HE WROTE PLAYS, AND HE WROTE SONGS. REALLY, IT'S WONDERFUL HOW TALENTED HE IS. YEAH. HE'S CHAMP. HIS SON, I SAW HIM JUST A WEEK AGO, AND HE SAID THAT HE WAS DOING FINE, THEY'D MOVED TO NORTHERN VIRGINIA, HE WAS DOING WELL, HIS HEALTH HAD CONTINUED TO DECLINE BUT HIS MIND WAS STILL SHARP, AND THAT HE'S BEEN DOING FINE. YEAH. OH, THE TWO OF US WORKED TOGETHER AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE FOR THE DEAF. WE WERE ROOMMATES AND TOURED TOGETHER. WE SHARED A LOT OF THINGS WITH EACH OTHER-- A LOT OF IDEAS, POETRY, IDEAS FOR THAT, AND THEN LINES FROM THE PLAY THAT WE WERE PERFORMING. WE'D TALK ABOUT IT. WE HAD A GOOD TIME. WE WERE VERY GOOD FRIENDS. YES. IN GENERAL, THAT'S TRUE. REALLY, I'VE SEEN A LOT OF CONTENT. I SEE, REALLY, TWO DIFFERENT CAMPS OF PEOPLE. IT SEEMS TO ME THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE FROM DEAF FAMILY AND PEOPLE WHO ARE FROM HEARING FAMILIES, AND THEIR WORK IS VERY DIFFERENT IN SOME WAY. THE 3 OF US-- PATRICK GRAYBILL IS NOT EXACTLY FROM A DEAF FAMILY. HE HAS DEAF SIBLINGS. HE GREW UP NOT IN A DEAF FAMILY AND A DEAF WORLD, BUT HIS MOTHER IS A VERY ACCOMPLISHED SIGNER. AND ELLA MAE LENTZ IS FROM A VERY STRONG CULTURALLY DEAF FAMILY. I'M FROM A DEAF FAMILY, ALSO, AND WHO ELSE WERE WE TALKING ABOUT? NO, NO, NOT PANERA. I MEAN ASL POETRY, NOT-- PANERA DIDN'T DO THAT. HE WASN'T INVOLVED IN THAT GROUP. THERE WERE 3 OF US, REALLY. DEBBIE RENNIE, PETER COOK, AND VALLI, DIFFERENT GROUPS... AND YOU CAN SEE A DIFFERENCE, I WOULD REALLY SAY, FROM THE FIRST CREATING ASL POETRY. WELL, LET ME SEE. VALLI DOES THAT. IS THAT CORRECT? WAS HE MAYBE THE FIRST PERSON DOING THAT? WHO ELSE? WAS THAT ELLA? REALLY, I BELIEVE I WAS THE FIRST ONE BECAUSE I TAUGHT AND I WAS TEACHING IT, YOU KNOW. THERE WERE CLASSES, AND WE WERE DOING EXPERIMENTS WITH DIFFERENT THINGS SIGNING, AND ELLA WAS ONE OF MY STUDENTS, AND I BELIEVE THAT CLAYTON VALLI TOOK ONE OF MY CLASSES ONE TIME, SO I FEEL LIKE I HAD A LITTLE BIT OF INFLUENCE THAT I HAVE THROWN OUT THERE, BUT THEN THEY TOOK THESE IDEA, AND IT IS WHAT THEY DID WITH THE ASL AFTERWARDS THAT IT'S IMPORTANT. THEY TRIED DIFFERENT TECHNIQUES AND WAYS OF PRESENTING IT, AND I THINK MAYBE THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF IT, BUT I THINK VALLI REALLY STARTED PLAYING WITH IT. IT WAS NOT UNTIL HE BECAME PART OF--LET'S SEE. THERE WAS A LINGUIST-- WHAT WAS HER NAME?-- CELESTE OR SOMETHING, A LINGUIST AT GALLAUDET. IT WAS SOMEBODY WHO REALLY PUSHED HIM TO WORK VERY DEEPLY, YOU KNOW, USE DICTIONARIES AND GET MORE INTO IT AND LOOK AT THE LINGUISTICS OF IT AND DO THE STUDIES AND ANALYSIS. I FELL THAT REALLY CHALLENGED VALLI TO GO INTO A WHOLE OTHER REALM, AND HE BECAME BETTER KNOWN IN THE DEAF COMMUNITY AFTER THAT. I THINK HIS REPUTATION GREW, EVEN AMONGST HEARING PEOPLE AT THAT TIME. YOU KNOW, DEBBIE MAYBE-- LET'S SEE. SHE INFLUENCED PATRICK GRAYBILL, I BELIEVE, BUT I THINK ALSO ELLA GOT INFLUENCE FROM THESE PEOPLE, AS WELL-- LET ME SEE; ELLA WAS BEFORE-- BECAUSE OF ME, AND THERE'S A GENTLEMAN NAMED JOE CASTRONOVO. ELLA AND JOE HAD WORKED WITH ME BEFORE. MOSTLY I'D WORKED WITH JOE. I WAS INVOLVED WITH TEACHING HIM SIGN AND POETRY AND PLAYING WITH SIGNS AND WORKING WITH THAT WHOLE TRANSLATION PROCESS. I SORT OF BEGAN THAT WITH HIM. HE BECAME VERY FASCINATED WITH IT AND THEN TOOK OFF, WENT TO TOWN COMING UP WITH A WHOLE MYRIAD OF CREATIVE ENDEAVORS WITH IT, AND THAT GREW WITHIN THAT GROUP, AND THAT--HE BECAUSE A REAL ASL POET THEN. SO DID ELLA. PATRICK GRAYBILL WAS IN THAT GROUP, SO I LOOK AT THESE TWO PARALLEL GROUPS-- ONE FROM HEARING FAMILIES, ONE FROM DEAF-- AND THEN IT SEEMED TO STOP THERE, AND THERE'S NOT BEEN A RENAISSANCE LIKE THAT SINCE, AND MY QUESTION IS, WHY? WHERE IS EVERYBODY? WHAT IS HAPPENING? IT IS BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY VIDEOTAPES OUT? YOU KNOW, YOU CAN SELL VIDEOTAPES, AND THEY'RE ALL OVER THE MARKET. I'M FORGETTING THE NAME OF THE GROUP. THERE'S A VIDEO COMPANY IN DC THAT PRODUCES VIDEOS OF WORK THAT I'VE SEEN, BUT IT SEEMS AS IF EVERYTHING HAS COME TO A GRINDING HALT, AND MY QUESTION IS, WHY? I THINK SCHOOLS ARE NOT REALLY ENCOURAGING CHILDREN TO WATCH THESE TAPES OR ENCOURAGING THE CHILDREN TO EXPERIMENT. I MEAN, I DON'T REALLY KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE THAT OR EXPLAIN WHY IT'S HAPPENING. I DON'T KNOW WHY IT STOPPED. YES. ELLA, FOR ONE, I DON'T REMEMBER THE TITLE EXACTLY, BUT IT WAS REALLY ABOUT OPPRESSION, PEOPLE FEELING THAT ENGLISH WAS THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL AND THAT THEY WERE ALL LOOKING DOWN ON ASL. I AM REMEMBERING, YOU KNOW, IT WAS A VERY POWERFUL THING. IT CAME FROM A PLACE OF ANGER WITHIN HER, BUT IT WAS SITUATIONAL. IT IS ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON HERE IN AMERICA, HOW EVERYONE TRIES TO IMPRESS UPON PEOPLE THAT ENGLISH IS THE LANGUAGE TO LEARN AND THAT ASL IS SOMEHOW SUBHUMAN OR LESS ELEVATED. YOU SEE THAT EXPRESSED IN HER POETRY. SHE DOES A POEM WHERE THEY'RE UNEARTHING THIS TREASURE, WHICH IS ASL, AND THAT EVERY TIME THEY TRY TO SHOW IT, THE DIRT IS THROWN BACK INTO THE FACES OF THOSE WHO ARE TRYING TO SHOW THAT ASL IS EQUAL AND BEAUTIFUL. IT'S VERY POWERFUL AND ANGRY. I WONDER IF THAT SORT OF POETRY, YOU KNOW, IF IT COMES FROM THAT PLACE OF ANGER, IT COMES FROM A PLACE OF OPPRESSION. I BELIEVE THAT'S FINE. THAT'S PART OF IT. YOU COULD CALL THAT POLITICAL POETRY, I SUPPOSE. I REMEMBER AGAIN ELLA IN HER TIME, SHE WAS SPEAKING ABOUT HER VIEW AND WHAT SHE WAS THINKING. I REMEMBER HER TALKING ABOUT CONTENT AND FEELING THE CONTENT WAS NOT NECESSARILY AS IMPORTANT AS SHOWING THE BEAUTY IN SOMETHING. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A POWERFUL MESSAGE. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A POWERFUL POINT. SOMETIMES HUMOR IS GOOD, TOO. YOU KNOW, PATRICK GRAYBILL, THE WAY HE DID THAT SONG ABOUT THE PIANO, THERE'S HUMOR IN THAT. VALLI DESCRIBES HIS MEMORIES LOOKING BACK AND THE BRIGHT, WINDY MORNING WITH THE WINDOW OPENING. MEMORIES, ANGER, HUMOR, OPPRESSION-- THERE'S A VARIETY OF THEMES THAT YOU CAN FIND, BUT IT'S NOT LIMITED. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO STOP THERE. I DON'T KNOW WHERE IT'S GOING, BUT THERE ARE A LOT OF OTHER THINGS TO EXPLORE WITHIN IT. YES. PROBABLY, OF COURSE, BACKGROUND HAS A LOT TO DO WITH HER WORK, AND WHO PEOPLE ARE DETERMINES WHAT SORT OF POETRY THEY PRODUCE. THAT OPPRESSION IS ENOUGH THAT PEOPLE-- TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES, AND MAYBE PEOPLE PERHAPS ARE NOT OPPRESSED ENOUGH TO CREATE MORE POETRY NOW. MAYBE THAT IS WHY THERE IS A LACK OF IT. OH, I'M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT. WELL... STRONGER IN ASL THAN IN ENGLISH, SO TO EXPLAIN THAT, I FEEL, CAN YOU EXPRESS THAT IF YOU'RE IN ASL, IF YOU'RE STRONGER IN ENGLISH, THAT'S YOUR FIRST LANGUAGE? I'M NOT SURE I WOULD SAY THAT. NO. YES. I CAN SAY THAT MARCEL MARCEAU TAUGHT ME HOW TO BREATHE ON STAGE BECAUSE, OF COURSE, I COULD NOT HEAR MYSELF, AND HE SAID, "PEOPLE ALL THE WAY IN THE BACK CAN HEAR YOU BREATHE." THAT WAS NEWS TO ME. I HAD NO IDEA. SAID, "BREATHING IS VERY IMPORTANT IN THE PERFORMANCE ASPECT OF MIME." LIKE, IF YOU FIND A DYING BIRD AND YOU HOLD IT IN YOUR HAND, PEOPLE CAN HEAR YOU BREATHE, SO IF YOU'RE PANTING WHILE YOU ARE PERFORMING, IT DOESN'T REALLY FIT WITH THE SUBJECT OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING. AS THE BIRD IS DYING, YOU NEED TO CONNECT TO THAT WITH YOUR BREATH. SLOWLY THE BIRD DIES. DID YOU HEAR ME BREATHING? COULD YOU HEAR IT? THE EXHALATION I WAS DOING THE SAME TIME THE BIRD EXPIRED. THE BIRD IS BREATHING SLOWER AND SLOWER. WERE YOU ABLE TO HEAR THAT? THAT'S HOW MARCEAU EXPLAINED IT TO ME, THAT THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR, AND I KNOW THAT BREATHING IS VERY IMPORTANT IN ANY KIND OF ACTING. BREATHING IN PERFORMING ASL POETRY, I THINK ABOUT MY BREATHING, ALSO, OR READING OR IMPROVISATION. BREATHING IS RELATED TO MUSIC. BREATHING IS MOST IMPORTANT. I WAS TAUGHT THAT ABOUT BREATHING.
Notes: 
"This project is supported by a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation."
Notes: 
Title supplied by cataloger
Other Title: 
Heart of the hydrogen jukebox