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Millcreek Journal

Deaf students showcase talents at fourth annual National Deaf Theatre Festival

Apr 09, 2024 01:18PM ● By Jolene Croasmun

Performers from several schools pose at the end of the National Deaf Theatre Festival (NDTF) at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) located in Millcreek. (Jolene Croasmun/City Journals)

The fourth annual National Deaf Theatre Festival (NDTF) was held last month in Millcreek at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB).

“The NDTF stands as a shining light of cultural significance, offering Deaf high school students a profound platform to forge connections with fellow like-minded peers who share their journey,” said Jonaz McMillian, the NDTF project coordinator and programmer.

“This event is so important for these students because our deaf children need to express who they are on stage,” McMillan said.

“In a world predominantly attuned to the hearing, this festival emerges as a sanctuary of inclusion, providing invaluable access to experiences that have long eluded those within the Deaf community,” McMillian said.

"The NDTF gives young Deaf performers the ability to perform on a national stage, refine their skills through competition and feedback,” said Jeff Perri of Deaf West Theatre.

“The students use American Sign Language (ASL) as their medium for acting,” added Perri. 

The students collaborated together and wrote, directed and performed these original works at this year’s festival.

“It's not merely an event; it's a transformative moment, where barriers dissolve, and the richness of Deaf culture blossoms, enriching the tapestry of our collective human experience and providing a gateway through positive Deaf role models of what can be possible for a career in the arts,” McMillian said.

The six schools that competed in this year’s competition were Montana School for the Deaf and Blind, Jean Massieu School of the Deaf, Rocky Mountain Deaf School, New Mexico School for the Deaf, Oregon School for the Deaf and James Clemens High School from Alabama.

The NDTF consists of workshops and training classes and even a live talent show competition. It is put on through Deaf West Theatre which was created as an artistic bridge between the deaf and hearing worlds.

The NDTF gives Deaf students the opportunity to “socialize with Deaf peers,’ Perri said.

The festival was free to attend but was also available to be live streamed. It ended with the announcer stating, “We are better together, we love these students!” λ