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New York Deaf Theatre, Kaiser's Room, and Saint Francis School For The Deaf Announce Pilot Class


Beginning in January 2020 Saint Francis De Sales School for the Deaf will host an 8-week session of theatre classes for their students who are d/Deaf and have additional disabilities. The classes will follow Kaiser's Room's model of creating connection through imaginative play, but adapted by New York Deaf Theatre to specifically serve this demographic of the d/Deaf community. According to The Gallaudet Research Institute nearly 40% of individuals who are d/Deaf have additional disabilities.

On why this type of programming is important for her students, Saint Francis's Executive Director Dr. Jodi Falk says, "It can be a challenge for our students to find after school classes that are accessible and inclusive from both a communication & learning style perspective and from a socio- economic perspective. It is such a special and powerful opportunity to be able to provide access to theatre classes on site and directly from Deaf teaching artists."

"Being able to provide opportunities to expose this community to the arts has always been a passion of mine. Giving them a way to express themselves physically and seeing how it can transform their lives is what this type of programming is all about. When I was growing up I did not have any arts programs accessible to me because I am Deaf and I want to change that for future generations," says NYDT Artistic Director and Teaching Artist JW Guido of the company's goals in serving the community.

On why Kaiser's Room's approach is a good fit for this pilot, Founder and Broadway actor Stephane Duret says, "With our individualized approach, and our commitment the individuals in the room, we knew (and still know) that the sky is the limit. Whatever the need may be, if we cannot provide for it in one moment, we can and will find a way to provide for it in the next and continue creating the space for imaginative play and connection."

"This three way partnership came about in incredibly organic fashion. Dr. Michelle Veyvoda, a KR board member and Iona College Professor previously worked at Saint Francis and is friends with Jodi", says Kaiser's Room Executive Director Philip Dallmann, "... and I spent years at TDF in their accessibility department working side by side with NYDT's board member Leah Koerner. So once the idea of this type of program was put out there it took but a few text messages between excited and inclusion focused friends to get the ball rolling."

All three organizations hope that this pilot is only the beginning and that this program can be adapted for other schools and for other cross sections of the disability community both in New York and across the country.

The New York Deaf Theatre, LTD (NYDT) was established in 1979 by a group of Deaf actors and theatre artists who wanted to create opportunities for the production of a dramatic art form that was not found elsewhere in New York City: plays in American Sign Language (ASL). A not-for-profit, professional theatre organization, NYDT is the longest running company of its kind in the greater New York City area and the third oldest Deaf Theatre company in America.

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Kaiser's Room (KR) was founded in 2015 by Broadway actor Stephane Duret and is a not-for-profit service organization that provides the opportunity for imagination and connection through theatre and dance for students of all ages and abilities. KR supports the artist community by providing employment that not only is fiscally profitable but feeds the soul. Kaiser's Room cultivates an environment of YES in all programs and interactions by providing safe, supportive, and fun environments for students and artists alike.

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St. Francis De Sales School for the Deaf (SFDS) is a privately owned, state supported school for Deaf students from birth through 8th grade located in the Prospect Heights sections of Brooklyn. Students attending SFDS are Deaf, Deafblind, Functionally Deaf and Deaf with Additional/Multiple Disabilities including Deaf with Autism and Deaf with Intellectual Disabilities. Founded by Sr. Anne Behre in 1960, SFDS strives to educate the whole child through multimodal means of communication in a safe, barrier-free environment so the child develops academically, physically, emotionally and socially. We believe each student is unique, therefore our educational program offers a variety of learning experiences to facilitate each student's growth and communication abilities. Our school community is inclusive and we strive to prepare our students to be successful and thrive in today's society.

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