Vermont’s deaf culture takes the stage in Bristol next Thursday

Photo by Amira Silverman
Melinda Bechdel and Don Petit-Homme perform in “Songs for a New World.” The project, which involved both hearing and deaf performers, will be explored on May 17 at 7 p.m. at Holley Hall in Bristol.

The expressiveness of sign language offers a glimpse into a rich but sometimes inaccessible culture. To learn more about Vermont’s deaf community, the public is invited to attend “Vermont’s Deaf Culture: Building Bridges Through Theater” with Julia Kitonis and Don Petit-Homme on May 17 at Holley Hall in Bristol from 7-8:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by One World Library Project and supported by the Vermont Humanities Council. It is free and handicapped accessible. American Sign Language interpreters will be present.

Julia Kitonis, who finished her first year at the University of Vermont this month, spent her senior year in high school pursuing an independent study, which inspired an interest in American Sign Language and its theatrical possibilities.

The resulting performance, “Songs for a New World,” involved both deaf and hearing performers and was staged in May 2017 at the FlynnSpace. Through this project, Kitonis came to know Vermont’s deaf community and learned about its rich and complex history. “I got to work with an incredible cast of eight performers from all walks of life here in Vermont to present a piece of theatre that was truly unique and meaningful to our community.”

Don Petit-Homme, a cast member in “Songs for a New World,” has been deaf since birth. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and moved to Vermont ten years ago. Petit-Homme’s interest in theater began in college, where he participated in campus productions. Petit-Homme is active in the deaf community, having served on committees with the Vermont Association of the Deaf and Deaf Advocacy Services.

The presenters will offer an overview of Vermont’s deaf community, its experiences and its history. They will focus on deaf theater of the 20th to 21st century and the process of bringing “Songs for a New World” to life as a multilingual and multicultural work of theater here in Vermont. Time will be available after the presentation for questions and discussion.

For more information about this event or One World Library Project, contact the Lawrence Memorial Library at 453-2366 or go to or the One World Library Project Facebook page.

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