“The Taste of Sunrise” is a Play from Two Worlds, English and American Sign Language

Florida State College of Jacksonville DramaWorks Review

DramaWorks presented playwright Suzan Zeder’s dynamic and intriguing “The Taste of Sunrise” November 8-11 at Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts in Jacksonville. Directed by Professor of Theatre Ken McCulough. It was his 49th production as the head of FSCJ’s Theatre Performance at South Campus. As a critic, I have seen most of his work over the years and have always looked forward to his productions, which ran from musicals to comedy, to serious and have been always entertaining and thought-provoking.

In “The Taste of Sunrise” he presented a play from two worlds with two languages: English and American Sign Language.

The play was set in a town in the Deep South during the years of 1917-1918. The play opened with a baby name Tuc being born deaf because of Scarlet fever. The rest of the play follows Tuc as he grows up adjusting to life and learning sign language along the way. His Father (Gabriel Alexander Pride) is persuaded to send him up North to a prominent school for the blind whose theory for the deaf was forbidding them to use sign language and pushing students only to learn to speak. (An ideology no longer used in this field).

Taste of Sunrise, FSCJ DramaWorks

While he is there, his father dies and he is suddenly an orphan. Tuc meets a young girl Maizie (Cameron Raine Smithgall) who becomes a close friend. Tuc was played by Lance McGlockton, a First Coast Technical College student. His performance was excellent. Tuc never spoke, only signed (something he had to learn to do in this role). Translating his gestures to live words was Allen L. Melton acting as Tuc’s voice. All the hearing actors constantly had someone on stage that would sign what they said; similarly the deaf actors had someone to speak the words they signed.

A number of people came in to Tuc’s life and included Emma (Autumn Franks), Nell Hicks (Betsey Totten Darnell) , Izzy (Erin Stephens), Clovis (Kendric Harris), Hunter 2 (Michael G. Muse), Dr. Graham (Carl Stokes), Dr. Grindly Mann (Angus Reid), Roscoe (Zach Beers), Hunter 1 (Joseph Mercedes), Nurse (Kaitlin Cody), and Patron 1 (Michelle Hamilton).

Taste of Sunrise, FSCJ DramaWorks

Florida State College of Jacksonville has an American Sign Language/English interpreting program and students from this program were among the ever present interpreters on stage for this production. They were Gabriel Babbit, Kristina Clifton, Elizabeth Hunter, Dylan Randall, and Jessica Rzemien. The interpreters were assisted in their roles by Pamela Bernkrant, a Professional Interpreter, Lori Cimino, an Instructional Program Manager for ASL/English Interpreting, James Pope, a Professor of ASL and Amy L. Ryals, a Language Consultant.

The technical aspects added much to the enjoyment of this play. Award Winning Scenic and Lighting Designer Johnny Pettergrew along with this staff and the students in the technical classes at FSCJ produced an excellent setting for this play. A floor to ceiling backdrop against the rear wall flashed colorful photos of settings germane to the action of the play.

Taste of Sunrise, FSCJ DramaWorks

“The Taste of Sunrise” is the middle play in playwright Suzan Zeder’s “Ware Trilogy, a series about the complexities of deafness that took her thirty years to complete. “Mother Hicks” and “The Edge of Peace” are the 2nd and third parts of this trilogy. The final play has Tuc going back home , still deaf of course but is able to make a living doing odd jobs and as a mechanic.

I thought that this play would have been one performed in St. Augustine, Florida since it is the home of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. It was obvious that this is an expensive play to do and FSCJ is to be commended for the fine actors and outstanding production. Twelve hundred students from the St. Augustine school attended a performance as special guests of the Wilson Center.

PRODUCTION TEAM

Ken McCulough (Director), Johnny Pettegrew (Scenic & Lighting Design), The Costume Crew (Costume Design), Bob Rupp (Scene Shop Supervisor), Mike Wills (Sound Design), Brandon Gelinas (Sound Assistant) , Grace Guevarez (Stage Manager), Adis Alic & Sierria Henry (Assistant Stage Managers), Tara Paige (Poster Design & Program Layout), Brenna Anderson & Elizabeth Stermer (Property Supervisors)

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

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