‘The Ugly Duckling’ comes to Fairfield
The Fairfield Arts & Convention Center will host a production of “The Ugly Duckling” at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
What’s special about this performance is all of the actors will sign their lines. The play will be performed by “Sign Stage on Tour,” based in Cleveland, Ohio.
Friday’s play is adapted from the fabled 1843 tale by Hans Christian Anderson. The Ugly Duckling tells of a homely little bird born deaf in a barnyard who is rejected by his neighbors until he matures into a beautiful swan, the most beautiful bird of all.
The story introduces the central character as deaf and explores the additional challenges he faces in a world filled with animals who can hear.
The Ugly Duckling does not look like his sister or the other ducks. Since he cannot hear, his quack sounds nothing like his sister’s or like any other creature in the woods.
William Morgan directs The Ugly Duckling. He modified Anderson’s original Ugly Duckling story to incorporate deafness into the story.
“In our version, the duckling is born ugly and deaf,” he said. “The ugly duckling’s mother and sister try to teach him how to quack but he sounds horrible.”
As the ugly duckling matures, he has to face a harsh world. He almost gets stuck in a traffic jam. He nearly gets his feathers plucked while in a butcher store.
“He goes through some of the same experiences deaf individuals go through in hearing situations,” Morgan said. “That’s the subplot. We have the regular plot of the story overlaid with cultural issues that real deaf people face.”
While the ugly duckling is on his journey, he runs into a dog that knows sign language. The dog teaches the ugly duckling to sign, too.
The ugly duckling goes south for the winter, and when he returns he is a beautiful swan. He returns to his mother and sister, to whom he teaches sign language so all three can communicate.
The actors dress in full-body costume with only their faces showing. Two of the actors are deaf and three are hearing actors. All of them know sign languages. The actors sign their lines, but much of the communication between the characters is achieved through gesture and mime.
Morgan said the cast will perform the play about 60 times in nearly 30 cities throughout the country. The actors began performing the play two weeks ago and have already gone to West Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Maryland.
“I’ve been to Fairfield before and I think it’s a great town,” Morgan said. “It’s a calm, peaceful place.”