10 Things the Raving Reviews Don’t Tell You About Spring Awakening

10 Things the Raving Reviews Don’t Tell You About Spring Awakening

Disclaimer: The following post reflects my perspective on the hearing-centered aspects of Spring Awakening. It is not a criticism of the Deaf actors. I actually enjoyed watching the fabulously talented Deaf actors in this play. I wish the whole cast was Deaf and fluent in ASL. Or at least that the play is equally accessible for Deaf people.



1. It’s a show for hearing people, not Deaf people.


Broadway is buzzing about this show being fully accessible to both Deaf and hearing theatergoers. If you are Deaf and haven’t read the script or Wikipedia synopsis, however, there is a good chance you will look something like this while watching the show.

2. The hearing actors use sim-com.


Sim-com (short for simultaneous communication) means signing and speaking at the same time. It is an unfair burden on the hearing actors to make them do sim-com. It sets them up for failure. ASL and English are two completely different languages with their own grammatical rules, syntax, and structure. It is not possible to talk in two languages at the same time. Nine times out of ten, when sim-com happens, the English is perfectly spoken or sung, but the ASL is broken and unintelligible.

3. For Deaf people, watching sim-com is an eyesore.


Sim-com is like the hearing version of someone scraping the chalkboard with fingernails. It is like the mute button being turned on and off repeatedly.

4. Plot, themes, symbolism lost in translation.


After reading the synopsis and reviews, I was excited to see the show based on the rich plot and the parallels between Deaf education and sex education in the Victorian Age. Sadly, the wonderful depth was gone, all because of sim-com.

5. Invented signs, just NO.


Why reinvent the wheel when ASL already has a sign for a word? In one scene, the actors are singing “My Junk”, using an initialized sign for “junk” that does not exist in ASL. In this song, the actors are singing “we’ve all got our junk and my junk is you”, where “junk” refers to an obsession or addiction. It is not clear why “junk” could not be translated into one of the ASL signs for obsession or addiction or something similar. I know of Deaf viewers who thought the actors were signing someone’s name sign during this song. Some people might excuse the “new” sign as part of theatrical signing, but no. If some people don’t understand what you are saying, it doesn’t work.

6. Deaf viewers miss out big-time.


There is obviously a communication breakdown when hearing viewers are laughing during one scene and Deaf viewers are clueless about what is so funny. Are we watching the same show? Again, using sim-com means Deaf viewers get the short end of the stick, or miss the boat entirely.

7. Schedule study time in advance if you are Deaf and want to follow the story.


Yes, I said it above and I’ll say it again, you do need to read the script (click here) or Wikipedia synopsis (click here) before you go. If you have no time to read before, bring your reading materials and a mini flashlight to the actual show. Reading glasses if you need them. Do your best to read along while keeping up with the sim-com onstage, or speed-read everything during intermission. Pray that your brain can handle the sensory overload. Or bring along your hearing family members or friends who sign and put them to work. Good luck!

8. Deaf people are sending mixed messages about sim-com.


Deaf people are always arguing against the use of sim-com in educational settings, but then we turn around say it is beautiful onstage. Sim-com is not even a language. It is an ineffective means of communication. We confuse hearing people with our mixed messages about sim-com. Let’s make up our minds and be consistent by saying no to sim-com everywhere.

9. It is all about the $$$.


Understandably, the Broadway producer of this show needs to earn money. That is fine, but how fine is it when the show is marketed as fully accessible to Deaf people, who eagerly line up to pay full price for tickets to this show and end up only getting half access? The theater doesn’t even reserve seats for Deaf viewers to make sure we can see everything. It is my understanding that only two shows during the whole run offer captions. That means if you are Deaf and don’t sign, or if you are Deaf and want access to English because you don’t understand the sim-com, there are only two times when you can see the show.

10. Last, but not least…

Of course, I want to see Deaf people succeed on Broadway and everywhere, because they can and should. I wonder if the majority of Deaf people who gave high-fives to Spring Awakening thought they would hurt the Deaf community by speaking up about the show’s shortcomings or if they were actually satisfied with half access, which we are so used to getting. Some might have worried about being labeled as “angry” or “bitter” Deaf people for being honest with their criticism.

The first reviews to come out by Deaf people on social media were overwhelmingly positive. This set the tone. The more raving reviews that showed up online, the more people applauded. It was almost like peer pressure to say only good things and leave anything else unsaid. In the review that came closest to Deaf people speaking the truth, five Deaf viewers were given free tickets in exchange for their input (click here for the review). They raised the sim-com issue and admitted it was difficult to follow the story. These reviewers no doubt were less influenced by loss aversion, a psychological/economic term that refers to people’s tendency to want to avoid loss at any cost. People who paid a lot of money to see the show, especially those who flew to NYC, stayed in hotels, and ate out in restaurants (easily costing $1000 or more) would have every reason not to want to feel like they wasted money. It makes sense they would give glowing reviews to justify their spending.

The Deaf community’s reaction to Spring Awakening is like an elephant in the room – or The Emperor’s New Clothes (click here) tale.

Growing Up With Two Moms

What comes to mind when you see the word “family’?

The idealized image of the American dream family shows a mother and father, but in reality, are all families like that?

There are, in fact, many different kinds of families, such as grandparents who raise grandchildren, single mothers and fathers, interracial parents, two mothers or two fathers. All kinds of families exist.

For example, I myself grew up with two mothers. It is really important to make children who have two mothers and two fathers feel safe, equal and included.
Back when I was in kindergarten, we were making flower boxes for Mother’s Day. I told my teacher that I needed to make three boxes because I had two moms and one godmother.

I was really lucky to have that teacher. She rearranged her schedule, gave up her prep time and asked me to give up my recess time to make sure I could make three flower boxes.

I was really fortunate to have her for my teacher. Later, another girl was not as fortunate because she had a different teacher. This young girl also had two moms. Her teacher told her that she must choose one mother to make a flower box for. The girl looked at the teacher and wondered how she could pick one mother out of two mothers. Is that right? No.

Today we have 15 states that have passed same-sex marriage laws and that number is increasing. One day we will have all states with this law. It is important to make sure that all schools recognize and honor diversity and equality for all families.
How can they do that? First, they can add more training. For example, while I was growing up, I remember that almost all of the pictures, drawings and posters I saw showed white and straight couples or families. They should show more diversity in families.

Second, for all of my life, I have noticed that forms requiring parent signatures always have one line for “mother” and another line for “father”. I always have to cross off “father” and write in “mother”. School forms should be more neutral by stating “parent” on both lines.

Third, schools need to make sure they don’t show bias. As you know, teachers, parents and other adults are role models to children, who look up to them. It is important for them to explain that all families are equal and that they are fine. Children will learn equality and respect from them. When they grow up, they will make the world a better place. Thank you

Video Letter to MDAD: Jr. NAD Conference 2011

My experience of Jr. NAD Conference 2011 (:


Hi, my name is Jehanne McCullough and I am a sophomore in Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD). I am also the vice-president for MSD’s Jr. NAD chapter. Last November, along with two other students that are the president and secretary, we went to Jr. NAD conference at California School for the Deaf, Riverside. Thanks to Maryland Association of the Deaf (MDAD) who sponsored us for this trip with $500, we gained a lot of experience from the conference. There were many workshops and speeches that we saw, and they talked about different things. I learned a lot from those workshops. Among the people who led the workshops, two were from Maryland! That’s nice.  One of workshops talked about how to be an assertive leader instead of using passive or aggressive methods. Another talked about the power of media, and that workshop led us to set up MSD Jr. NAD’s Facebook page after we learned about how powerful media can be! Even Miss NAD Deaf America, Rachel Mazique, gave us a workshop. There was a pageant night, MSD did not participate as it was last minute for us, but we still had fun and learned a lot during the pageant. Some who were in the pageant discussed many things like Deaf issues, bullying, and more. I met a lot of people, and it’s great networking opportunity for me. There are different group projects like Round Table where they discussed the proposals for Jr. NAD General Assembly later. Another is Empty Bowl group where they painted the bowls to be auctioned and the proceeds would be donated to charity. I am in George Veditz Video group where we made a Public Service Announcement (PSA) during the weekend about empowering to youth. We went to all workshops and on the last day, there was General Assembly where all of proposals the Round Table agreed on were being brought up. Delegates voted on those proposals. My school has two delegates who are the president of Jr. NAD and me, the vice-president and one observer. We the delegates at the conference reviewed all of proposals in General Assembly and voted for or against on different proposals. We supported the proposal to have two Jr. NAD representatives going to NAD conference this summer, and the proposal got passed. On last night, I met many people and would never ever forget this conference. This conference really helped me to be a better leader, and when I came back home in Maryland, I became more active and better leader around my community. The conference was really worth it! Again, I want to thank MDAD for sponsoring me to go to the conference and to make it possible!