Saturday, March 16, 2013

Children of a Lesser God

The Garden Theatre announces Beth Marshall Presents' production of the powerful drama, Children of a Lesser God by Mark Medoff sponsored by Progress Energy, March 15-30, 2013, at the Garden Theatre (160 West Plant Street, Winter Garden). On Friday, March 22nd at 8pm, there will be a fully interpreted American Sign Language performance in partnership with the Center for Independent Living. Winner of the Tony Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award, Children of a Lesser God is the powerful drama by Mark Medoff.  The show is being directed by Brenna Nicely and Beth Marshall, sign language direction was by Joe Kramlinger. This is the first time Beth has directed a show at the Garden Theatre although this is the eighth show produced by her here.

I went to the Garden Theatre to sketch the dress rehearsal. The front door to the theatre was locked so I walked around the building clockwise to try and find an open door. I climbed two flights of a stairwell before realizing it wouldn't lead to the theater. The stage door was in the back and thankfully it was open. I stepped right into the actors green room. There was one door leading to the stage. The black curtains disoriented me. I stepped out and saw Will Hagaman who plays James Leeds, as he instructed Mike Deaven as Orin Dennis on how to speak. I realized that I was on stage and quickly stepped back behind the black curtain. I scooted along the wing to the front of the stage but I couldn't go down the steps into the theater without stepping on stage again. I waited till the scene being rehearsed was finished. Beth shouted out, "Come out of there Thomas."

As I found a seat, I saw the James Leeds on stage embracing Sarah Norman played by Eliza Steves. They signed to each other intimately. Beth warned me that a sign language interpreter would be standing right in front of where I sat. In the show, James is an instructor at an institute for the deaf. Sarah has never spoken. She refuses to try and do something if she can't do it well. She signs faster than an interpreter can speak. James falls in love with her and they get married.
 Sarah Norman is performed by Eliza Steven
Every married couple has their differences, communication is the anchor to any relationship but a common ground is hard to find between silence and sound. I found myself rooting for the couple hoping they could mend their differences. Their love story revolves around the politics within the deaf community about bridging the gap between the hearing and deaf worlds. The show packs an emotional one two punch that overwhelms to the point of tears. It glows with radiance of hope and abandon and then the depths of despair. As Sarah stood and signed without an interpreter, I felt the undeniable urge to understand. The set was minimal with no props. All the attention is spent on the spark between James and Sarah.

Besides myself there was only a row of acting students from a States Acting Competition. We all stood and applauded. This show leaves you thinking long after you leave the theatre. Will Hagaman did an amazing job as James. He not  only had to learn his lines, he had to learn sign language. Eliza Stevens did an astonishing job expressing her emotions without a word. More importantly the couple had a spark that ignited the emotional engine of the show.

Show times are Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM,  Sundays at 2PM and Thursday March 28th at 8PM. Tickets are $25 for adults and $21 for seniors and students. The show runs through March 30th.Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm, plus Thursday, March 28 at 8pm. Tickets are $25 for adults, $21 for seniors/students. For tickets, visit or call the Garden Theatre Box Office at 407-877-GRDN (4736).

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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