Barry McNamara  |  Published October 18, 2022

‘Inclusion Is an Intention’

National speaker Jo-Ann Dean to teach master class on making theatre more inclusive to the deaf.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College students and faculty will learn what more can be done to make theatre more inclusive to members of the deaf community.

JO-ANN DEAN: Guest speaker is CEO of SIGNmation, a New York City-based organization that promotes... JO-ANN DEAN: Guest speaker is CEO of SIGNmation, a New York City-based organization that promotes deaf artists and American Sign Language and culturally accessible content for arts.Jo-Ann Dean, CEO of SIGNmation, a New York City-based organization that promotes deaf artists and American Sign Language (ASL) and culturally accessible content for arts, will be on campus Oct. 24 to lead the conversation.

Dean will speak at 7 p.m. in Wells Theater, along with Mary Hould, a New York City-based actor/singer who works professionally as an ASL interpreter and media consultant. Their presentation will be a master class covering creative marketing, funding and outreach to create a box office draw to untapped audiences: the deaf and hard of hearing, blind and disability community.

Sponsored by Pat Elmone, who was originally from Monmouth and attended high school with Monmouth theatre professor Doug Rankin, the event is free and open to the public.

Why a master class on inclusion and access?

“Theatre is for everyone. Inclusion is an intention,” said Dean. “How do we do it? What do we do? These two questions always follow the ‘Why?’ Inclusion is not an afterthought or to be added in post-production or marketing. It starts at conception in your budget. Put a line in your budget for accessibility.”

Dean said that basic concept applies, whether an individual is studying the arts as an actor, director, writer, producer or stage manager.

“Learn how to make your show you cast, create or produce be as diverse on stage as your audiences,” she said. “Draw new audiences to your box office and learn creative ways to fund accessibility. Diversity in theatre cannot be truly achieved without including the disability community.”

Dean is a producer of new media, open caption screenings and ASL-interpreted panels within film, theatre festivals and the entertainment industry. Her company produces and promotes deaf artists and ASL productions, both live and streaming, with culturally accessible content for arts, theater, film and television. It offers creative consulting for fiscal budgets, grants and community outreach for its clients’ productions.

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