By Eric Thomas
The music is loud, the dances are flashy, and the party rages on at the Kit Kat Klub. The year is 1931 in Berlin, Germany and the Nazis are rising to power. Mix all of this with English, German, American Sign Language, German Sign Language, and actors who are deaf and hearing and you have a powerhouse production of “Cabaret” at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York.
Appearing as the lead character of Sally Bowles and making her acting debut is Jacksonville native, and 2016 Jacksonville High School (JHS) graduate, Victoria Covell, a junior graphic designs major in the College of Arts and Design at (RIT). The show ran November 30 through December 2, 2018. Covell is the daughter of Laura and Morgan Braucht and Jerry Covell.
“It has been a rich learning experience and I am loving it so far,” states Victoria Covell. “I had to learn how to balance my time with school work and memorizing my lines. It forced me to get out of my comfort zone and be more confident in myself.”
As a deaf student, this experience has been very eye-opening for Covell. The cast and production team are made up of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people; some who can sign and some who cannot. Throw speaking German in the mix and communication complications are multiplied. These multiple communication mechanisms within this show have been quite the hurdle for all, but a challenge the entire cast has taken on quite successfully. “The experience has been incredible,” said Covell.
This is not the first show they have done to include deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students. Many shows include a wide variety of performers. Last year, National Technical Institute of the Deaf Performing Arts (NTID), one of the colleges within RIT, did a dance adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” which included deaf and hearing actors combined.
Other times their shows feature only hearing actors or only deaf actors. The collaboration shows are so rewarding for all involved.
Dancing comes very naturally to Covell. She danced with Sara’s School of Dance for 15 years and was on the varsity dance team, the J’ettes, at Jacksonville High School for four years.
Covell chose Rochester based on its diversity and the great access program they provide for the Deaf and hard of hearing students for classes, clubs, events and more. (RIT) of Technology was founded in 1829 and is a coeducational university with nine different colleges emphasizing career education.
They have a student body of approximately 15,900 undergraduate students and additional 2,400 students are enrolled in their global locations of China, Croatia, Dubai and Kosovo.
They also have 3,100 students engaged in graduate programs. More information on RIT can be found at www.rit.edu.
Upon completion of her degree program, she would like to eventually pursue a master’s degree with her emphasis going towards dance and possibly something in the performing arts.
She is currently interested in California Southern University-Northridge which has a deaf program, similar to Rochester’s program. She has set her sights on bigger companies such as Google, Disney or maybe even work for a cruise line.