Co-directors give actors a ‘hands-on’ experience with ‘The Hunchback’
Ziegfeld production is performed in English and American Sign Language
Ziegfeld Theater’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’
- When: Sept. 29-Oct. 1 and Oct. 5-8
- Where: The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
- Cost: $23-$43
- Phone: 855-745-SHOW
- Web: parkcityshows.com
Quasimodo, the lead character in Victor Hugo’s classic and gothic novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” is deaf.
So, it makes sense that the Ziegfeld Theater Company‘s cast would present its new version, which includes songs from the 1996 Disney animated musical by Alan Meken and Stephen Schwartz, in English with American Sign Language.
“Everybody signs in the show,” said co-director Anne Post Fife, who is deaf. “The whole show is signed from beginning to the end for the whole audience to enjoy and be a part of.”
Park City will get a chance to see Ziegfeld’s production during a two-weekend run that starts Friday, Sept. 29, at the Egyptian Theatre.
Post Fife, who is graduating with a theater degree from Utah Valley University, translated the script into ASL and was part of the group who taught sign language to the cast, and worked with co-director Morgan Parry to get the production to the stage.
“I really appreciated the time where Morgan and I worked together, and to do that, we did have to split things up a little bit,” Post Fife said. “We did ASL workshops and music workshops. Then we came together and did the blocking, so there wasn’t a whole lot of conflict as far as that goes. But it has definitely been a learning experience. It all didn’t happen in one day. It was a process.”
While Parry, who co-owns the Ziegfeld Company with her husband Caleb, did most of the blocking, Post Fife worked to make sure audiences could see the sign language, which is done simultaneously by the actors.
“I would move around in the theater and watch the show from different areas to see if I could see all the signs,” she said. “We did end up pulling the cast as far to the front of the stage as we could, so they could be seen. While I have had this kind of experience before, it was a first for Morgan. And it was great to be able to support each other. I loved being a part of learning her directing style.”
Kimm McConnachie, who served as interpreter for Post Fife’s and Parry’s interview with The Park Record, is also involved with the production.
She served as interpreter during the rehearsals, and saw how connected Post Fife and Parry were.
“Morgan would tell me to tell Anne something, and Anne would tell me to tell Morgan something, and I would say, ‘You guys are saying the exact same thing,'” she said. “It’s been awesome to see them both on the same mind train.”
McConnachie, who has been a certified ASL interpreter for 29 years, was also asked to be in “The Hunchback” cast, and this production marks the first time she used her ASL skills for acting.
“It was a unique challenge for me because I realized I didn’t have to sign everybody’s part,” she said with a laugh. “I just had to do one — mine. It’s been special, unique and beautiful, you can add more adjectives here, experience for me to be a part of the show.”
Interpreting the different roles was a special challenge for all the actors, especially those who portrayed Quasimodo, Esmerelda, Phoebus and Frollo, Parry said.
“We have a deaf actor playing Quasimodo, and a voice actor who says his lines simultaneously,” she said. “So, we were able to let both of them take their own interpretations of the role and meld them together.”
McConnachie signs for Layne Willdon, who performed as Frollo, and McConnachie also provides the character’s singing voice, Parry said.
“She was also able to find her own motivation and feelings of the character in the moment, and it was amazing to watch those scenes and see the interaction of those two actors come together.”
Post Fife admires McConnachie for stepping up her acting skills, as the signing and singing voice for Frollo, throughout the process.
“Being an interpreter and being an ASL performer are different,” Post Fife said. “Interpreters stand there, listen and sign. Acting is different, because everything happens simultaneously. And Kimm was able to read the translation and come up with different interpretations of her role.”
McConnachie was also touched in how the story addresses issues such as oppression, classism and love.
“I am holding back the tears right now, because it shows how love can sometimes conquer all,” she said.
Parry also wanted the production to shine a spotlight on those issues as well.
“Some of the things that made this uniquely (a Ziegfeld production) was that we really leaned into finding the themes that are current today, but were in existence in the 1800s when Victor Hugor wrote it, as well as the 1400s where the story takes place,” she said. “Anne and I are both extremely passionate about the rights of groups who have been marginalized and suppressed in our country, because this is something that has affected both of our lives.”
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame” isn’t the first production where the Ziegfeld Theater Company has used ASL. “The Wizard of Oz,” which was performed last autumn, incorporated it, Parry said.
“We learned a lot of things we didn’t want to do, but we learned a lot of things that worked,” she said. “And the thing is when you want to branch out and collaborate, you have to take it to the source.”
Post Fife is the source, according to Parry.
“With ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ we worked with someone from the deaf community before, but the person wasn’t involved in theater, pre se, while Anne is majoring in theater,” she said. “So having her, who wanted to portray how she wants to be seen in a theater production, made it a completely different experience for us.”
Post Fife did see Ziegfeld’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” when it opened in Park City.
“I was thrilled to sit in the back of the theater, instead of at the front right hand corner to watch an interpreter, but as a director, I analyzed things as far as what I could do to help make it better,” she said. “So, working with Morgan on (‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’) was great, because I was able to show how to make things more successful and accessible.”
Post Fife also wanted to recognize the cast members for their work and dedication.
“They learned sign language and practiced all the time, including in the wings and backstage,” she said. “They understood that hearing plays and ASL plays are different, but the process of getting them to the stage is the same process. We all wanted to tell the story of Quasimodo, Esmerelda, Frollo and Phoebus, all of them. And we wanted to make sure we were giving the whole story, everybody’s story, and I think it worked out great.”
Santa Claus returns to the Park City Ice Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. for the annual Santa Skate! Don’t forget to bring your ski or bike helmet to wear while you’re on the ice. Complimentary skating and rentals.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.