Ottawa-based performance collective Speaking Vibrations kicks off its national tour at the Halifax Fringe Festival with a multi-disciplinary work incorporating ASL song/poetry, music and dance to explore the sounds, songs, signs and stories of four women.
It’s truly an immersive experience for audiences to interpret and enjoy, and the future of accessible theatre.
We learn more in this Q&A with co-creator and contemporary dance artist Jordan Samonas.
This interview has been edited.
Tell us about Speaking Vibrations. What can audiences expect?
Speaking Vibrations is a unique, immersive and genre-defying show that explores the sounds, songs, signs and stories of four women. Speaking Vibrations is experienced visually through ASL song/poetry, dance, dynamic graphics and captions, aurally through vocals and percussive dance, and tactically through feeling and vibration, designed for d/Deaf, hard of hearing, and non-deaf audiences.
What was the inspiration for Speaking Vibrations?
The inspiration for the show was discovering, through conversation and creative exploration, how our individual stories and experiences connected and how our histories, identities, languages and art forms could be weaved together.
For Jo-Anne Bryan, one of the show’s co-creators and performers, her story is inspired by her upbringing as the only Deaf person in her family, expressed through ASL song/poetry and visual vernacular. For the other performers, contemporary and percussive dance, rap, song and poetry are the modes through which their stories are told.
The other inspiration for the show was making accessibility our aesthetic, which we think we’ve done well.
Why this particular show now?
Speaking Vibrations is a performance for audiences to see, hear and feel the central place accessible theatre can inhabit. Not only is the show truly genre-defying, blending ASL poetry, music, dance and storytelling, Speaking Vibrations also incorporates technology and accessibility in ways rarely seen before on Canadian stages. For example, select audience members will experience the show with a vibrotactile device built by VibraFusionLab, which translates live sound into vibrotactile feedback.
What do you hope audiences leave Speaking Vibrations talking about?
No two people will leave the show having had the same experience. If you’re Deaf, you will experience it one way. If you are an immigrant, you will experience it another way. If you are a musician or music lover, you might experience it in yet another way. We hope folks leave talking about this and how they’ve never experienced anything like it.
Why should someone come to see Speaking Vibrations?
It’s very different from traditional theatre as it’s dance-theatre, accessible-theatre, and concert-theatre all in one. The show functions like poetry as four women meld various performance languages, ASL poetry and song, music, rhythm tap, dance, and visual, aural and tactical elements all together into one show. It’s truly an immersive experience for audiences to interpret and enjoy, and the future of accessible theatre.
The Halifax Fringe Festival returns from August 31 through September 10, with more than 60 productions taking place at venues across the city.