Friday, March 13, 2015

Wheelock Family Theatre Presents "The Taste of Sunrise" - Part Two of The Ware Trilogy by Suzan Zeder - "Some Things Are So Beautiful They Do Not Need Sound"!

My heart is full and my head is spinning as I sit down to capture my thoughts and emotions after having attended the opening performance of "The Taste of Sunrise - Part Two of The Ware Trilogy" by Suzan Zeder.  This play serves as a prequel to "Mother Hicks," which was presented recently by Emerson Stage.  You may want to take a moment to read my review of that play using the link below.

White Rhino Report Review of "Mother Hicks - Part One of the Ware Trilogy"

In this play, the playwright fills in the back story of Tuc.  We learn how he became deaf after a bout with scarlet fever that almost took his life.  We learn of his struggles to communicate with his father, the mixed blessing of his years at the deaf school in Carbondale, and his return home to be with his dying father.  Wheelock Family Theatre is hosting the second segment of this World Premiere event - the first time that all three plays in the Ware Trilogy have been produced in the same city.  All three of the plays are performed bilingually in English and American Sign Language (ASL).

If this is Tuc's play, then it is also certainly Elbert Joseph's play.  He is the deaf actor who portrays Tuc. We see his words projected on the upstage wall, we hear his words being spoken by Ethan Hermanson and Cliff Odle, who also plays Tuc's father.  And Mr. Joseph conveys his words with ASL.  As effective as these triple means of communication may be, they are almost redundant.  For the actor's expressions and movement and stage presence are so compelling and so clear that there is never any doubt what thoughts and feelings and intentions he is radiating.  This is one of the finest performances by an actor I have seen on a Boston stage.

Elbert Joseph as Tuc
. Photo by 
Craig BaileyPerspective Photo.
EJ is playing Tuc in all 3 plays of The Ware Trilogy.
Suzan Zeder has created something special in this trilogy.  At one level she is recounting the history of a particular community - Ware, Illinois.  At a more significant level, she is addressing the common human hunger for a sense of belonging to a community.  Tuc is the central figure desperately striving to connect and to fit in and to communicate, but there are many other characters in the trilogy whose longing is similar.  At another level, the plays recount the bumpy history of the efforts by the deaf community to define itself despite the well-meaning machinations of educators who "know what we are doing" who forbid the use of gestures or signs because they believed it would stand in the way of learning to read lips and express ideas orally.  At the end of the day, Tuc manages to create his own community - his own family, not bound by genetic ties or geographic propinquity, but forged by a mutual desire for meaningful connection and communication across formidable barriers.

The fine ensemble cast includes:

  • Elbert Joseph as Tuc
  • Cliff Odle as Jonas Tucker
  • Kathleen Patrick as Emma Flynn
  • Brittany Rolfs as Nell Hicks
  • Donna Sorbello as Dr. Alexis Graham
  • Daniel Bolton as Dr. Grindly Mann
  • Lewis D. Wheeler as Clovis P.Eudy et al.
  • Jen Alison Lewis as Izzy Sue Ricks et al.
  • Matthew J. Schwartz as Roscoe
  • Amanda Collins as Maizie
  • Ethan Hermanson as the Voice of Tuc
  • Sirena Abalian as Alma et al.
  • Steven Cosnek as Voice of Rosce et al.
  • Erisette Cruz, Reignyah Miraculous Grant, Ingrid Jensen O'Dell, Suleyka Suarez and Arthur Wheelock-Wood as the Deaf Student Ensemble
  • E. Sho Ndukwe and Christopher S. Robinson as additional Ensemble
At a crucial juncture near the end of the play, Tuc and Nell Hicks are thrown together and needing to depend upon one another.  But he is deaf and communicates in signs - what Nell calls "air pictures."  And Nell is hearing and does not understand Tuc's signs.  They reach out to one another and plead "Teach me - Teach me - Teach me!"  Nell screams the message in words; Tuc screams in gestures and signs.  And they begin to teach one another. As the level of their connection and communication deepens, Tuc asks Nell, "What does the sunrise sound like?"  Nell ruminates for a moment, and then responds with the answer: "Some things are so beautiful they do not need sound."

The same things must be said of Mr. Joseph's performance.  It was so beautiful that it did not need sound.

In leaving my seat following the standing ovation and the deaf community's enthusiastic waving of hands to indicate applause, I found myself part of an instant community.  It was the community of those of us - dozens of men and women - who needed to pause, remove our glasses and wipe the tears from our eyes so that we could see to find our way out of the theater.

Go see this show and be moved as we were.

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This winter, be a part of a world-premiere dramatic event!


March 13 – 22, 2015

Friday nights at 7:30; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00

School day performances at 10:30: 3/18, 3/19

Audio-description: 3/19 and 3/22

This play is in both spoken English and American Sign Language.

For additional information, group sales, 3-show packages, please visitwww.WareTrilogy.orgOpens a new window or contact WFT at 617-879-2300

Written by Suzan Zeder. Directed by Wendy Lement and Kristin Johnson. Scenic design by Janie Howland. Lighting design by Annie Wiegand. Costume design by Lisa Simpson.
The Taste of Sunrise takes place in the mind and memory of Tuc, from the fever dreams of his childhood that took his hearing, to the language that he shares with his father of the natural world, to the deaf school where his mind explodes with the discovery of sign language. Tuc is a boy who must navigate the perilous path of love, loss, and language to weave a family out of wishes. An ensemble of Deaf and hearing directors, designers, and actors invite you to explore the cultural complexities of deafness with humor and compassion.
Recommended for adults, teens, and children 9+.


Over thirty years in the making - Suzan Zeder’s richly lyrical Ware Trilogy captures the pulse of key moments in American History. These cherished plays, presented in collaboration with Emerson Stage and Central Square Theater, are inspired by the oral traditions gathered by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and have become beloved pieces of the educational theater canon. Against the stark mid-west backdrop of Ware, Illinois, we are introduced to complicated themes of loss, identity, and family through the lives of three outsiders: Tuc, a young deaf man; Girl; a foundling child; and Mother Hicks, a mysterious recluse, who is often suspected of being a witch. Zeder’s trilogy of plays proves that drama expressly created for young people can be serious, sophisticated, and culturally relevant without losing playfulness or a sense of humor.

Mother Hicks, part one, will be presented at Emerson Stage; February 26-March 1, 2015.
The Taste of Sunrise, part two, will be presented at Wheelock Family Theatre; March 13-22, 2015.
The Edge of Peace, part three, will be presented at Central Square Theater; April 3 -12, 2015.

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