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24 September 2014

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A rehearsal for the Cambridge Arts Theatre Summer School
Rehearsal for the summer school

Theatre for all...

Sam Stewart went along to the Cambridge Arts Theatre Deaf and
Hearing Summer School to see how rehearsals were going before the big show!

A rehearsal for the Cambridge Arts Theatre Summer School
A rehearsal for the Cambridge Arts Theatre Summer School
A rehearsal for the Cambridge Arts Theatre Summer School
A rehearsal for the Cambridge Arts Theatre Summer School

Cambridge Arts Theatre Summer School

"I went along to one of the rehearsals before the big show. The summer school performers only have 10 days to make a piece of drama, but yet when I entered the Guild Hall in Cambridge to watch them, I was happy to see that they were taking time warming up and doing exercises about body language and how to present yourself on stage.

"Roberta, the Education and Community Manager explained to me what was happening that day and took me to see the tech crew as well to see what they were up to. I was amazed by what the tech crew were doing - things such as heavy lighting. Roberta went on to say they can do anything for the stage such as hanging silks and moving objects - I really wish I was good at electrical stuff, but these guys really impressed me!

"I went back to the hall and watched the group get ready to start rehearsing. The Cambridge summer school is not like any other summer school. It's a partnership with The National Deaf Children's Society. It offers deaf and hearing kids the opportunity to get together to create ways of presenting mainstream theatre, working towards a final performance for a live audience at the end of the summer school. The Summer school is for ages 13-18 and it truly inspired me. I could have stayed for the whole day and watched the young performers interact and develop their piece of drama; however I will be attending the final production and will be reviewing it.

"I'm looking forward to watching this, as I love anything to do with theatre and I know this will definitely be a production worth watching.
I had a quick interview with Roberta to find out what Cambridge Theatre Summer School was really about..."

Tell me about the Cambridge Arts Theatre summer school:
"I arrived at the Arts Theatre seven years ago when the theatre was in financial trouble. The building closed temporarily in the summer of '98 to save money, which meant that the stage was empty and the staff had very little to do. I was asked to create a summer school so that young people could make use of the building, the stage and the technical crew.

"I always believe that education should be as challenging as possible. I personally find British Sign Language (BSL) a rich and dramatic language. Why not try to integrate all that is good about
spoken performance with all that is exciting about Sign performance? It seemed the moment to try something absolutely new and so the Deaf and Hearing Summer School was launched. There is quite a lot of information about those early years on our website."

How do the deaf and hearing people communicate?
"We have never had big problems with young deaf and hearing people
working together. We start with a short, fast, deaf awareness training morning where everyone learns the alphabet, how to sign their name, and dips into deaf culture. BSL is a rich, wonderfully expressive, physical language. The visual, bi-lingual theatre style we are striving for seems to come very easily to young people who tend to have open minds and lots of imagination. Often it's the older members of the production team that have to try and re-think old ideas in order to keep up.

What play are you doing this year and when is it?
"We always devise our own play because there is no work out there that uses English and BSL equally. We don't want to start solely in English and translate into BSL because that limits the vision and scope of our performers. All language carries a strong bias, and if you start in English, lots of artistic decisions are made without you even realising it."

"The performance is on FRIDAY 20th AUGUST at 7pm followed by a post-show discussion with the company and an on-stage
party after that. The evening should end at about 9.0pm. Tickets are free but please book in advance so we know how many are coming."

What can people do if they want to take part in next year's summer school?
"If you email the education department with your postal address, telephone and date of birth, we will send you an early application form next February or early March. Or you can check the website around that time and register online. We have already started advertising next year in our theatre brochure - so keep one handy for details."

You also have a Tech Team which must work really well. What are they doing for the production?
"We are very proud of the technical places on the summer school. Ten young people aged 15-18 really do work one-to-one with professional designers, sound and lighting experts and stage management crew to create, rehearse and run the final performance. Every aspect of the theatre is available from 'flying' in scenery to star cloths, special
effects, smoke machines, every conceivable sound and lighting cue you could imagine. It's a great opportunity for anyone who prefers a more hands-on skill, and it fits really well with the new drama and media foundation courses on offer at colleges these days and we have had several summer school technicians go on to work professionally in theatre."


For more information about Cambridge Arts Theatre and the Summer School Performance check out

British Deaf Association -

National Deaf Children's Society -

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