Is the National Theatre of the Deaf dying?

Written by Thomsen Young and you can follow him @
All evidence is pointing in that direction. The National Theatre of the Deaf was founded by some of the most prominent and influential members of the Deaf Community such as Bernard Bragg, Phyllis Frelich, Linda Bove and the list goes on. Yet, there are many in the community that feels that the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD), once a bright beacon in the Deaf Community in America, is now on its way to a slow, unbearable death.

Don’t take my word; in fact, this has been on ongoing issue since for many years. There is growing concern that if something is not done soon…The National Theatre of the Deaf is doomed. According to a Facebook page, “Let’s Make the National Theatre of the Deaf Good Again”, believes just that. NTD is dying. The page is trying to build a coalition of people to support NTD again so that it will “become successful and relevant again”.

Why is NTD dying?

According to Tom Willard, the man that started, “Let’s Make the National Theatre of the Deaf Good Again”, believes that “in recent years, however, it has been allowed to deteriorate to where it just four people performing sporadically for children in schools and libraries as the “Little Theatre of the Deaf”. Yet, many years ago, NTD had a full cast, full support staff and traveled to all 50 states and as well as all over the world. Now, as Tom Willard states, “Current management brags about the past and makes excuses about the present, exhibiting an entitlement mentality in which nothing can get done without handouts from government and other funders.” in other words, current management do not have any desires to make NTD great again.

NTD is dying because there’s no leadership nor is there any inspiration.

When Aaron Kubey resigned from his position, the NTD kicked off their job search for a new director, yet, the problem was, they never really did a job search. They essentially handed the job to Betty Beekman, who is hearing. In an email from NTD Board member John Basinger on why, he wrote that they “didn’t think that anyone would accept the low salary they were offering”. Yet, you might be surprise that the position that was being offered, the salary was $62,612. Did you also know that Basinger has been on NTD Board for a long time? No term limits.

NTD is dying because there’s no honesty nor is there any trust.

There’s an article that you should read called, “The Rise and Fall of the National Theatre of the Deaf” that was written last year. It’s quite interesting. Camille Jeter-Lorello tells Paige Foreman that “NTD is just not the same anymore”– NTD doesn’t do global tours, bookings are non-exist, and funding from the state/government – zip.

DID YOU KNOW? : Charles M. Roper, former NTD’s executive director for 19 months, admitted to embezzling $105,000 of NTD’s money and went to prison for it.

Dr Stephen Baldwin blames the fall of NTD on the Roper embezzlement and the subsequent problems of funding. Yet, it’s been well over twenty one years since the Roper embezzlement of 1994 and NTD still hasn’t fully recovered.

Yet, Tom Willard and over 335 members do not believe that NTD is dying. In fact, they want NTD to become successful and be more involved in mainstream society just like how Deaf West is to Spring Awakening and ABC is to Switched at Birth. As Dr Stephen Baldwin tells Paige Foreman of the The Buff & Blue:

“Do not forget that we have other wonderful professional theatre groups like Deaf West and SignStage Theatre, too. Deaf actors are on TV, in the movies, and in stage productions quite consistently, but not often enough. There are deaf Ph.D recipients, doctors, professors, professionals, and authors. Again, NTD is not dead and buried. Other groups, programs, and people have taken up the slack of enhancing, publicizing, and enlightening others about Deaf culture.”

Jules Dameron, a brilliant award winning director whose recent works such as  “Let It Go” in ASL and Mokkakaffe and two rising actors, Daniel Durant and Sandra Mae Frank, shared their thoughts about NTD.

All three were asked, “Do you think National Theatre of the Deaf will be a bright beacon once again in the deaf community? Or do you think it is still on the decline?

Jules Dameron said, “I don’t know enough to judge it–but I certainly hope it comes back and becomes alive again. The deaf community needs it”.

Sandra Frank said, “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve already dreamed of NTD. It was once beautiful long ago with talented deaf actors. I have a feeling that it will. I don’t know too much but with a lot of deaf actors out there raising the bars and making noises, it has to.”

Daniel Durant said, “Oh since I was a young kid, I have been a big fan of NTD. I am a big advocate for Deaf performers and Deaf arts. I hope to see NTD’s success.”

NTD needs to be revived and will have a Spring Awakening, but for that to happen, NTD needs real leadership with a board that has a unlimited vision with term limits that will represent the embodiment of the Deaf Community and the theatre as a whole.

#bringbackntd

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