A picture of Senator Tom Harkin
Thomas H.
Former Democrat IA
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    by Former Senator Tom Harkin

    Posted on 2013-01-31

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    HARKIN. Madam President, on February 9, theater lovers and performers will come together at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, CA, to honor Ed Waterstreet, the retiring founding artistic director of Deaf West Theater.

    Mr. Waterstreet founded the Deaf West Theater in 1991 with the goal of establishing the first permanent, resident American Sign Language theater company on the west coast. Ed began--as he puts it--``with only one chair, one desk and a typewriter in an office space shared with and donated by the Fountain Theater in Hollywood.'' From those humble beginnings, he inspired and led the creation of a theater company that has produced 40 plays and 4 musicals, and has won more than 80 theater awards. Deaf West Theater's production of ``Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' opened in North Hollywood and ended up in New York City, earning two Tony nominations and a Tony honor for excellence in theater. Equally important, he succeeding in creating a theater whose productions are fully accessible to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, as well as others.

    I have had the pleasure of attending both ``Big River'' and other Deaf West performances and, let me tell you, it is a thrilling and unique experience. Productions are presented in American Sign Language, with simultaneous sign-to-voice translation for hearing members of the audience. As Ed explains: ``Our deaf audiences can have the pleasure of watching the story unfold in our native American Sign Language. And on the other side of the coin, our hearing audiences have the customary theater experience, enhanced by the visual expressiveness of American Sign Language.'' Ed Waterstreet has had a long and distinguished career in theater. Before founding Deaf West Theater, he was a long-time member of the National Theater for the Deaf. His Hollywood acting credits include the Emmy-winning 1985 drama ``Love Is Never Silent.'' Throughout his more than two decades at the helm of Deaf West Theater, he has been dedicated to expanding opportunities for deaf artists. And he has pioneered innovative approaches to integrating nonhearing and hearing performers in stage productions.

    [[Page S436]] Ed is now retired from Deaf West Theater, but he is by no means retiring. He says, ``The theater is still my baby.'' He plans to remain actively involved, as Deaf West continues to strive toward its goal of providing an exhilarating theatrical experience for all audiences, regardless of hearing or signing ability.

    Regrettably, it will not be possible for me to join with Ed's many other admirers as they come together to honor him next month in California. But I, too, want to express my great respect for Ed Waterstreet's excellence as a performer and artistic leader, and for his passionate commitment to creating new opportunities for aspiring deaf performers not only on stage but also in film and television. I wish Ed and his wife, Linda Bove, all the very best in the years ahead. ____________________

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