Deaf actor teaches students his craft

April 9, 2009 Who has a better understanding of using body language as a form of communication than an actor who is deaf?

Every student in this room hopes to someday be an actor. They are part of the Conservatory at Act One Studios. Steve Merle is the director of this two-year program.

"We have a small group of students who are in class all day everyday working the craft of acting," said Merle. "It applies to anything they study film, they study acting, voice and movement, which is where Robert comes in."

Teacher Robert Schleifer is a deaf Chicago actor who has been seen performing around town and nationwide.

"Robert teaches them how to act with their entire bodies, express with their entire bodies, which is a craft, and it's a wonderful process," Merle said.

First-year student Rachael Proulx says it's a different kind of challenge.

"His job is to help us learn to communicate without using words, so if people can tell what we're saying without hearing us then you know that you're doing what you're supposed to do," said Proulx.

Eli Castro, another first-year student, didn't know one of his teachers would be deaf until the first day of class.

"It's my favorite class because I'm a physical kind of actor, performer and he's all about telling a story through your body," said Castro.

For Robert this is a labor of love.

"I love watching them go from zero to something," Schleifer said.

Most of the actors from Act One Studios work in the Chicago market. For more information go to and

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