What, Where? UK
(from the website)
In 2002 Paula Garfield founded Deafinitely Theatre alongside Steven Webb and Kate Furby having become frustrated with the barriers deaf actors and directors faced in mainstream media.
Deafinitely Theatre are the first deaf launched and deaf led professional theatre company in the UK producing quality bilingual theatre in British Sign Language and spoken English.
A world where theatre is accessible for all and deaf people are a valued part of the national theatre landscape.
To produce high-quality bilingual theatre for deaf and hearing audiences of all ages and backgrounds, combining the visual storytelling of British Sign Language with the immediacy of the spoken word.
About Paula Garfield (copied from Independent)
"As a professional actor during the 1990s I became increasingly frustrated with the barriers that deaf people faced across the arts. Most significantly it seemed that there was a real lack of theatre created by deaf artists and with deaf audiences in mind.
I spent 15 years as an actor and was often the only deaf professional working within a “mainstream” theatre company. Despite having a deaf actor using sign language, the shows weren’t made accessible to deaf audiences – deaf friends who came to see me perform would always say how lovely it was to see me on stage but, not able to understand the hearing actors, they weren’t able to enjoy the production fully. I did notice during this time that there was some progress in improving accessibility with the introduction of captioning and British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted performances.
Over the years I became disillusioned with the world of acting, and theatre more generally, having experienced a lack of deaf awareness and bullying from others in the industry. One year-long tour took a particular toll on me. As the only deaf member of the company, I was ignored and poorly treated by my fellow actors and made to feel that, as a deaf person, I should be grateful I’d been offered the work in the first place.
At this point, mentally and physically exhausted, I was resolved to leave acting and the industry. At 35 this was a daunting and stressful prospect – I didn’t have any qualifications and didn’t have the confidence to retrain in a new career. Jo Hemmant, working for Arts Council England, was responsible for encouraging deaf/disabled artists to apply for funding; having met previously, she asked about my upcoming projects, I told her that I was no longer acting and she suggested applying for support. With English as a second language, the application itself was challenging but a friend, Kate Furby, assisted and I was successful – from here Deafinitely Theatre was born."