Chicago Children's Theatre features deaf and hearing actors in 'Pinocchio'

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An inclusive show where young hearing and deaf actors perform on stage together in an adaption of 'Pinocchio' debuted at the Chicago Children's Theater Thursday night. (WLS)

An inclusive show where young hearing and deaf actors perform on stage together in a signed and voice adaption of "Pinocchio" debuted at the Chicago Children's Theater Thursday night.

Julissa Contreras plays Pinocchio, a role she is very familiar with.

"I think this is my favorite one really because in the last year I was involved with Pinocchio and now I'm involved with the show again so I feel even more connected to this one. I think it's my best play that I've been involved with, my favorite," said Contreras.

This adaptation of the classic story takes the audience to a world of mythology, giving a twist to the classic story.

"We lifted a couple passages of the book and built an entire mythology surrounding certain pieces of the book," said Levi Holloway, co-founder and co-artistic director of Neverbird Project. "Everything was sort of born from those keystones. We're used to the repeated moral lessons but there is no nose growing here or a wish to become a real boy, it's a different wish to become more human."

Co-director Katy Boza said the devices used to narrate the play, along with the integration of deaf and hearing artists automatically changes the story.

"It's a brand new challenge for those who have never signed before...it's been neat, great, weird and different," Boza said. "We go in with the lines first, just speaking lines and then we add the ASL on top of that, so we just start layering on."

The play allows creativity and inclusion to collide.

"I think that many, many, children coming to see this show will have never met deaf person, much less ever seen signing, and I think it's going to give them an opportunity to look into a new world," said Jacqueline Russell of the Chicago Children's Theatre.

Pinocchio starts Thursday night and runs through May 7th. For information about the show and the Chicago Children's Theatre, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org.
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