Ground Floor Theatre (GFT) and Deaf Austin Theatre (DAT) announce casting for the Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical, Next to Normal running December 5-21, 2019 at the Ground Floor Theatre. Directed by Lisa Scheps and Brian Cheslik, this collaboration with GFT and DAT will feature a cast of both hearing and deaf actors, and the show will be presented synchronously in spoken English and American Sign Language (ASL).
In keeping with GFT’s mission of producing groundbreaking works by and for underrepresented communities, Ground Floor Theatre teamed up with Deaf Austin Theatre for this production of Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey’s Pulitzer prize winning Next to Normal to be fully deaf inclusive. Each character will be played by 2 cast members – one deaf, one hearing. In addition to being inclusive, this production will add the beauty of American Sign Language to every performance enhancing the message of the show which deals with mental health, addiction, and suburban family dynamics.
Directors Lisa Scheps and Brian Cheslik discuss bringing these two theatre companies together for this co-production. Scheps exclaims, “I am excited to be co-directing this challenging piece with Deaf Austin Theatre’s Brian Cheslik. Adding ASL and deaf characters to Next to Normal makes this compelling play more dynamic and relevant…. I can’t wait!” Cheslik expands his excitement, “Next to Normal is going to be like nothing else that Austin has seen before. This collaboration between Deaf Austin Theatre and Ground Floor Theatre will be sure to open doors to more collaboration between hearing and Deaf actors all across the South. It is a dream show for me, and I am so thrilled to be working alongside Lisa Scheps to bring this dream to reality.”
Next to Normal explores how one suburban household copes with crisis and mental illness. Dad’s an architect; Mom rushes to pack lunches and pour cereal; their daughter and son are bright, wise-cracking teens, appearing to be a typical American family. And yet their lives are anything but normal because the mother has been battling bipolar disorder for 16 years. Next to Normal takes audiences into the minds and hearts of each character, presenting their family’s story with love, sympathy and heart.
The production has a cast of 11 that blends hearing and deaf performers. The cast includes JoAnn Benfield (Dr. Madden/ASL), Sandra Mae Frank (Natalie/ASL), Kirk Kelso (Dr. Madden/English), Jim Lindsay (Dan/English), Kerry McGinnis (Diana/ASL), Daniel Ponce (Henry/English), Megg Rose (Diana/ASL), Tarique Sylvester (Henry/ASL), Maryanna Tollemache (Natalie/ASL), Seth Washington (Dan/ASL), and Riley Wesson (Gabe/English/ASL).
Directed by Lisa Scheps and by Brian Cheslik. The production team includes musical direction by Adam Roberts and Dr. Ellie Jarret Shattles; choreography by Kelsey Oliver, costume and prop design by Patti Neff-Tiven, scenic design by Zac Crofford; lighting design by Amber Whatley; sound design by Jeff Miller; ASL coordination by Sharon Ploeger; production stage manager Kelsey Moringy; and Danielle Grisko as stage manager.
Performances run December 5-21, 2019 at Ground Floor Theatre, 979 Springdale Road, Austin, TX at the corner of Springdale and Airport. Performances are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 5:00 PM. The “First Friday” performance on December 6 includes a reception. Ground Floor Theatre believes in “theatre for everyone” regardless of ability to pay, so tickets are always “Pay What You Can”. Tickets can be purchased at www.groundfloortheatre.org.
This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department and Texas Commission on the Arts.