December 8th, 2015
Behind the Curtain: Andrea Runge (Tribes)
QDF: What is Tribes about?
Andrea: Well, Tribes is about communication, and how we use communication to define our identity within our communities, particularly within our family. In this story, the youngest son of a hearing family was born deaf, yet he was raised as if he were hearing, and not involved with the Deaf community. Everyone in his household is an academic, where language is very important to them. He meets someone who is a part of the Deaf community and who grew up in a deaf household. That changes everything; she has a big influence on him. She invites him into the Deaf community and opens another world for him that he feels he really belongs to.
QDF: Who do you play in the show?
Andrea: I play the character of Sylvia, Billy’s girlfriend. She comes from a deaf family, and is involved in the Deaf community. She is in the process of losing her hearing when Billy meets her at the beginning of the play.
QDF: How was the process of learning the American Sign Language (ASL) for the show?
Andrea: Sign language is amazing! It is it’s own unique language: it has its own rules, its own grammar. It doesn’t translate exactly into English so it’s been very interesting getting to the final interpretation of the script that is used in this production. It has been a challenge for sure and it’s been an incredible experience to have had the opportunity to learn it.
QDF: What was something that was a challenge during the show?
Andrea: Sign language has definitely been the biggest challenge for me. Not only because I need to sign in the show but also in order for me to communicate with Jack Volpe, my co-actor, I want to learn as much sign language as I can, so we can communicate with each other.
QDF: Since your fellow actor Jack is actually deaf, how many people in the cast can speak sign language?
Andrea: Jack had two interpreters with him throughout the rehearsal process. So, we were always able to communicate with him through the interpreters. But everyone has been picking it up and learning it, and we are often asking him, “What’s the sign for…?” It has been a really nice group effort.
QDF: Since you are not from Montreal, how has your experience been in the city?
Andrea: I love this city – it’s amazing! I didn’t know it very well before I arrived and I have totally fallen in love with it. I think the people are fantastic, and it has a really great culture that is unique to this province. It has a really great personality. I look forward to opening the show so I can spend a little more time around the city. I am from Regina, but have lived in and around Toronto for the last 10 years.
QDF: What message would you like the audience to leave with at the end of the show?
Andrea: I hope they gain insight into a world they may otherwise have not known anything about. I didn’t know anything about Deaf culture, nor ASL, and I feel very blessed that I have a great window into this world that I am not a part of and may not have encountered without this play. I have a greater understanding and appreciation of the deaf community, and hope the audience will walk away from this play with that as well.
QDF: What is the reason why it is called Tribes?
Andrea: I believe there are a number of different reasons for the title. Your family is your first tribe, that is the tribe you belong to, whether you like it or not. The play explores questions like: “where do go from there?” “Who do you identify with?” “What are the communities that you feel a part of?” It also explores the idea of making your own choice to move into another tribe. But, I believe it is a little bit ambiguous as well. There are a lot of themes in the play. For me, that term has a lot to do with the community we were brought up in, and then the community that we choose to be involved with, which we all do as we grow up, and that changes even as adults as well.
QDF: How was this rehearsal different than any other rehearsal process you have been through?
Andrea: Having interpreters in the room is something very different and it makes you aware of how clearly you are communicating. We also had an assistant director who was a CODA, which means she is a child of deaf parents. She has been a valuable resource. We had a dramaturg because there was a lot of research on it as well. So, there are just a lot of artists involved, which is amazing and it is such an amazing team. It’s not just about the people on stage, it is about the desire to make this world come to life. It’s about the people uncovering everything from the script. There has been a lot to talk about.
QDF: How elaborate is the set and costume design for this show?
Andrea: It is a contemporary play. The set is large as the stage itself is a fairly large playing space. There are 10 scenes in the play, so there is a lot of furniture that gets moved around. Everybody has a lot of different costume changes, because a lot of time has passed in the course of the play. So, in that sense there is a lot going on in terms of costume and set design.
QDF: For an aspiring actor, what is one tip you wished you had when you started out?
Andrea: That is a great question. I would say to have patience. You get out of theatre school and you are ready to go and that is not always how the business works, there can be a lot of waiting time between jobs, and perhaps in the job itself.
QDF: Anything else you would like to share with the audience?
Andrea: I think this play sheds light on some really interesting and important themes. It is a great window into Deaf culture, and the people in it, who deserve to have their story be shared and ‘heard’.
Andrea will be performing in her show Tribes
November 29th- December 20th
Also join the Segal ASL Challenge, where you send a video of you signing your name. Watch the cast of Spring Awakening on Broadway. Watch their video and make your own. #SegalASLchallenge