Arts and Lectures April 15, 2019 Poetry in Signing


– [Interpreter] Hey everyone. Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen. I’m so excited to be here today. So before we start, my
name is Dolph Rehkop and I’m the ASL program coordinator, I’m a full-time instructor here, and I want to say thanks to
the Arts and Lecture Committee. They’re responsible for
setting up the schedules for the Monday Arts and Lecture series so they have different
guest speakers that come in and I want to thank them. Is anybody here from them? Robert, are you here? There’s Robert. Thank you, thanks to both
of these people over here, thank you so much. This gentleman’s name is Ian Sanborn. His sign name is like this. That’s Ian. He is deaf. He’s a well-known storyteller. He’s involved in ASL poetry as well as makes a lot of videos that he develops for children, for deaf and hearing children for developing positive
sign language skills. He’s also a graduate from the
National Theater of the Deaf and he also ran Deaf West
Theater in Los Angeles. He did a show, Beware of the Bryns? Beware of the Bradle Beast. So anyway I want to welcome Ian and thank you, Ian’s here. Let’s give him a round of applause. Hello everyone. First of all, I want to
say thank you for coming and for watching the show. I’m really happy to kind of teach you some of the things that I know about ASL. ASL is American Sign Language. So let me just explain
briefly about my background. I was born into a hearing family. My parents, my sisters knew
a tiny bit of sign language except for my mom. My mother could sign fluently but she signed exact English,
signing exactly English. How many of you know
Signing Exact English? How many of you don’t know
Signing Exact English? Alright. Signing Exact English is,
the abbreviation is SEE. It’s signed every word has a sign and that includes the articles as well. The thes, the is, and. All of those are included in each sign. In American Sign Language, it’s not there. The articles aren’t included in the signs. It’s all included in the timing. It’s different than the language that’s based on the
English word structure. For example. The frog jumped into the well. The frog jumped into the well. In ASL, you sign the
frog and you put the well and the frog jumps into the well. Can you see the difference there? So in Signing Exact
English, it was very signy, word-for-word translation, and if you’re wondering how that works, does anybody know how that works? Let me explain for a moment. When you’re Signing Exact English, you’re looking at each word, there’s a sign for each word. You’re seeing that object, you’re seeing the object of that word. In American Sign Language, you’re using classifiers
which is hand shapes and they look kind of like this for one and then the well is
going to be a round circle on this side. And so I’ve set up the
well in a location here and then the frog is from this side. I’ve set them up in their spaces and now the frog leaps into the well. And it happens like that. That’s the difference in ASL
and Signing Exact English. Now I grew up in a hearing family where everybody was signing
English to me all the time until I got into the fourth grade. And then I went to a
deaf school in Vermont. It’s the Austine School for the Deaf. That is closed now unfortunately. However, it was the first school that exposed me to American Sign Language
and I was just gobsmacked. I could see the sign,
everything was so clear, and I could visualize it. My natural skills as an artist
inside me were developing and I had total access
to this other language in American Sign Language and
things were alive and vivid. So I continued at that
school for two years. A lot of socialization with people who were grassroots ASL users. And now I’ve expanded from that. When I go into the deaf schools,
there’s different groups and they all have their
own style of signing ASL. Some of them sign Signing Exact English, some are more oral. When I go in and I meet
somebody for the first time, they start signing and maybe
in an English word order or it’s a mixture of
American Sign Language and the English word order, you know, I kind of find a way
to get to the language that they’re using. And there’s a whole range and ASL, there can be more pure ASL. So there’s a whole range of
people that are using ASL. There could be students or friends, so there’s some that are
using a strong English manner and some that are signing
in a stronger ASL manner and there’s that whole continuum
between those two fields. When I went into the school at first, I was like oh, I could see
the Signing Exact English and then I could see the ASL, the mixed with English, and those people were more creative. Their sign language, it wasn’t really ASL, it was like a slang if you will. It was more slang. I’m like wow, what’s that slang all about? Like for example, so if you say the cat’s got my tongue, it’s like this. This is the ASL sign, (laughs) just like that. In English, you say does
a cat got your tongue? But in ASL, you can see like that. That was very clear, the cat
went out, it got my tongue. So that kind of worked as long as I understand
that topic, if you will. But if I didn’t know what the topic was, I’d be like what’s this thing and what’s it doing to your
tongue, you know what I mean? That’s never happened to me. Has it happened to you? (laughs) It must be a really big cat maybe, hopefully was just a little kitten that got ahold of your tongue but. So by knowing the topic, you can see I got tongue twisted or the words got stuck in my throat, that kind of thing. You were understanding the concept. So in ASL you can clearly
understand that concept. And so I was really interested in that and wanted to learn
more and more about it. Another example would be gulped. The word gulped. ASL would maybe sign something like this. Like… It’s kind of like being dumbfounded, just lost for words. And so it’s like you’re
feeling that big gulp that’s happening in your
throat like a gulp like that, see that? This sign is more like
wow, when you gulped, your heart took a step too, man. You were really just changed
by whatever just happened. This is another sign like this. Like oops, the police pulled me over. Oh crap. I got a ticket. – [Interpreter] Or when
you land safe in a plane. I went on a four-day trip
and I arrived in Europe and I realized, I found out
that I had nothing on me. No wallet, no phone, no suitcase, and then this was my reaction. Like oh my god, what do I do? That’s that huge feeling of beyond gulp but just being dumbfounded, what can I do? So among all these different groups, people who signed exact English, people who did a mix of ASL and English, and then the group who
were strong ASL users who might give me a look like this like what are you signing
English to me for? Aren’t you fluent? I’m proud to be deaf,
this is a deaf school. And I was so nervous but I
said I’m from a hearing family and I’m sorry, this is new to me. And I was wondering how I can be the same? How can I have this identity? My identity was different and how can I develop this identity? People from deaf families, people who’d been using ASL, people whose parents sign fluently, grandparents sign fluently,
were in this group. They had aunts and uncles, everybody were fluent signers. And that was the group that
I felt with my background, I was very different. And I learned how to mouth English, I worked on that all through fourth grade, up until fourth grade and
then well, sixth grade when I went into the School for the Deaf. I met this strong deaf group there and they did invite me
to go to their houses for the weekends and my mind was blown. I mean, just imagine 24
hours, seven days a week being in that environment where everybody’s signing
fluently all the time and I would have total
communication access. And I was just so amazed. And this group of strong
fluent deaf signers I realized caught something
different between that group and the SEE signing group. Why do you think it was so different? The difference is confident signers, people who have confidence in their hands and their bodies, they’re
rooted in their language and ASL linguistics. They have ASL in them. They’re just, they can sign big, they can sign confidently, or instead of being tentative and not being as strong in the language and not feeling intimidated by it. So some of you are very
confident in English. I’m sure you have your
favorite singers, right? You would have your favorite musicians and you would just love their music. You don’t have a favorite singer? Well, cause you’re deaf, okay. (laughs) So you’d be pretty
proud as deaf person, yes. So then if among hearing people, there’s no oh, I just
love that singer’s voice, I’m just intrigued by their voice, the way they sing so fluently and their voice just comes bursting out that’s not garbled up. They just are in love with that person. They might buy every CD, every
album the person puts out. (laughs) So just letting out the money. So then or you might be, you know, in love with an ASL storyteller or just the beautiful
movement of their ASL and you want them to sign more fluently. And you could be fascinated by that person and that would be equal to a
hearing person’s fascination with the musician. So I had friends from deaf
families in this group who were confident signers and I tried to pick up ASL from them and learn ASL storytelling
and poetry from them. And I was young enough that
I could just take this in, I was so enthralled, and my interest in connecting
really came through that through nature because
I grew up in the country in New Hampshire. I saw animals, I saw the trees,
I saw movement in nature, the cycles of the seasons, and how everything would
repeat from year to year. And I had four seasons
there in New Hampshire. Spring, everything starts to bloom and flowers come out and
the rains and the breezes and it’s warm and just beautiful and then that moves into summer. And summer can be pollens everywhere, the air can be just yellow with pollen. You’d see pollen all over the ponds and it’s humid and moist
but it’s still beautiful. And there are lightning
storms and thunderstorms and that moves into fall, which gets chilly and windy. The wind can be hard to deal with but then the trees and the colors and the movement from the wind and the maple trees with
the leaves changing color. It’s really sugar maples especially that have the variation in color. Other trees move, might
change to yellow or brown but the range of maples is just the shades of from orange to bright red to magenta to all these different colors. And the smells in the
woods are incredible. Anyway, that season then moves into winter and winter is harsh in New Hampshire. It is harsh because
there are terrible winds and they travel in all
different directions and so the winds can
conflict with each other and it could be totally blow
you from all directions. And you know, this is the whole winter, you feel like blasted by the wind until finally spring comes and you think thank God, spring is here. So that’s anyway, I grew up
in nature and seeing that and that had a huge effect on me and so did American Sign Language. And these converged in
me to develop this… Well, I’ll give you one short example of an ASL poem about nature. And it’s called Leaves or The Leaf. (claps) (claps) So now I want to back up a bit and ask what you saw. Just call stuff out, let me know what you saw in the poem. What did you recognize of what I signed? Yes. Could you say that again? The bird flying. Guess what that shape is. What do you think that was? A bird flying, okay. A soaring bird. Yeah, it was a bird soaring, you saw that. Okay, in the beginning
you’d see the bird flying, soaring over the clouds, yes, good guess. And what else? The transition of life,
like transitions in life. Meaning starting out with
a seed coming in the ground and then with the rain, starting to develop and the rain comes and that grows even
further, it becomes a tree. And then next it’s summer and it’s hot and everybody’s, it’s humid, everybody needs to drink more water. And then finally the clouds come and the rain comes, so there’s the drink and everyone’s happy. And then in the fall, then starting to brag about the color, like well, look at me,
look how beautiful I am. I’m orange with green and red and see me? And now it’s starting to
be winter and it’s cold. And this is just one leaf
on the tree, it’s lonely. There’s nobody to cuddle with,
nobody, it’s just chilly, it’s really cold. Until it’s frozen and the
leaf falls down to the ground and then it looks up at the tree, it says its goodbye to the tree. And what you see then is I
showed two different ways of expressing every object
in the story or the poem. Like for example, you saw the tree. This is the sign for tree. Go ahead, everybody do this sign. This is the sign for tree, which just means tree. A growing tree is what? Growing. That’s the sign for grow, yes. But now when you have a growing tree, what does it look like? Like that. The growth comes into becoming a tree. You see the trunk emerge and you see the head of
the tree, the leaves. And it needs a haircut maybe. (laughs) Hello tree. Who are you, how are you? That’s the tree. And then I’ll focus on the leaf. This is the sign for leaf. Then I act like the leaf. You can see it in my body. I’m happy, I’m just dangling there. The winds come one day and I’m shaking around
like that in the breezes. And you see it in my face, ah, as I’m flailing around in the breeze, just like you would if
you were walking outside and you pass a building and there’s all of a sudden really windy, you have to block yourself from the wind. And oh my hair, oh no, this is, I’m gonna look terrible for my date! So you really, you react, and it’s just like you have to react with your signs as well. And you make the object
react through your body and you react to the environment and you use your body language, you use your facial
expressions to show that. Now this is the sign leaf but then the tree growing and then the leaf shaking
around in the wind and the bird flying. There are all different parts, all different hand shapes in the story. And then you can see the actual silhouette of the bird flying by
with the hands like this. And it’s really called visual vernacular. It’s the name for that. Visual vernacular is, I’ll
just describe it to you. When you look up close to
the bird, you see a bird. You’re just in front of the, it’s in front of your nose, and the bird becomes big
because it’s right there. But then you become the bird like this. Stretch your legs, stretch your wings. Now you see a bird a mile away. What does it look like from a mile away? You don’t see the, that’s when you see the
silhouette in the sky like that. And it’s even further
away, three miles away, you see it like that. So you see the bird
disappearing into space, getting smaller and smaller, and the handshake gets smaller and smaller and further away. Now visual vernacular is the term for that but I’ll show you the key to it. It’s body language, facial expression, and classifiers, which are hand shapes
that are all included. Without those, what the other important thing is rhythm. I want you to copy me, okay? It’s to the beat of four. Okay, you ready? Now in four times. Now if the mark is right here, that’s the marker of the time, meaning you start with one. Do it big with your whole body. Breathe into it. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. That’s how I remembered
seeing violin and drum class and seeing this teacher
orchestrating everybody, using the wand and going like this. Three, four. So everybody copy me doing this this way. (audience laughs) So when I see an orchestra,
I see a conductor, it’s just pulls people
out into their energy and their excitement and
it’s everything is there in the music and the conductor just brings that out and it’s embodying the music. And you see that in ASL as well. The way someone signs,
it’s their full body, it’s in their blood,
it’s through their arms and through their bodies,
through their face. They’re fully embodied and believable because of the way they’re signing. So now it’s time for an activity. First of all, I want to see, well, how many of you know different
parts of a rooster’s body? There’s the the comb, right? Do you like, okay, you like roosters. You like the comb. Okay. What’s the top part called? What do you call that? The crown. You call it a crown. And all roosters, there
are different kinds, different shapes, different
configurations of the crown. It could be like this. Now what about, okay, hold on. That’s just one body part,
it’s an example of a crown, but then there’s different
looking ones too. I’ll give you another example. It looks like that, like a double one going
backwards on the head. So they’re all different varieties. There’s this kind. But be careful you don’t
mix it up with Trump. You don’t want to make it look like Trump, that’s a different sign for Trump. But there are roosters
that have that shape of the crown. Now the wattle. What’s the wattle? Right, like that. Now roosters have a breast. Like this. But be careful because it can be confusing and it can look funny, so just be careful. You know ASL students tend
to think oh, that sign, you have to be careful, it
could look like a swear word, I’d be so embarrassed. But with the breast, the rooster’s breast, it’s a description of how their feathers, do they go up or down? They go down. So you would sign it like this. It’s not like breasts like this. (audience laughs) That’s obviously does not
look like a rooster’s breast. It looks like this, this beautiful shape with the feathers going down. Now what about the wings? Okay, everyone do this. Beautiful, beautiful. Now I’m gonna show how
the rooster behaves, how does it move? So don’t worry about
the body parts right now and the signs for those. I’m just going to become
the essence of the rooster with my behaviors. So I’m gonna try to act
exactly like a rooster but it’s that, that is how a rooster acts. It looks silly though. It looks funny. But now with the spirit of the rooster. (audience laughs) Can you see the rooster in me? Do you see how I did it two different ways with acting like it but then becoming it? So with the rooster out of the house and the rooster out of the house is walking around on the farm and meets a cow. And then finds a worm that it pecks at. Swallows the worm and
then looks at the sunrise and starts to sing. Cockadoodledoo! And wakes up the grumpy farmer. So that’s basically the English of it. Now let me go back and show you ASL, but I’ll be acting as the rooster. Exactly as the rooster. (mimicking rooster crowing) There you go. So that’s acting just like the rooster but now with the spirit of the rooster, becoming the rooster in spirit. (audience laughs) So now I want to incorporate
signs and becoming the rooster. Okay, now I want you, I want
some audience participation. I need four volunteers to come up. Yes, come on up. Somebody else? Anyone else wants to volunteer? Come on. I’m leaving soon too, I
have to leave soon so. I told you it’d get their attention. Okay, two people. Who else? If you see a brave person standing up, give them some applause, yay! Okay, great. Oh, more, okay. Four is good, okay. Now can you all see? Are the lights good? Maybe they’re nervous but let’s give them a little warm-up. Give them a little applause
to warm them up, okay. Yay! Yay! (audience laughs) Great, thanks. Okay. Now we’ll start like this. And you know how roosters move
their heads like this, right? Don’t drop your hands, just keep your hands up. Every time I clap, pick a pose. (clapping) Okay, now we’re gonna go fast. (rapid clapping) (audience laughs) Okay, now put your hands down. The key to this is having clear order, not mixing up all the different movements but just doing it in order. It looks like you’re
like hitting on yourself. So just start out like this first. Second, show the breast. Third, show the wings. Fourth, walk forward. So that’ll give you the concept. So first, what do you do first? Second. Third. Fourth. It’s interesting how he did the wings and how she did the wings. (audience laughs) And his were like this and yours were like this. It’s interesting. So they’re developing
their own characters. It’s interesting to see that, they’re just incorporating it into their own animal character just from what they have inside them. And you all have to
follow what’s inside you. So he looks ready to fly, she looks like a vampire rooster. (audience laughs) Gonna get you. And he looks like this. Maybe it’s rooster and he looks expansive like
take me home, take me away. So they each had their
different characters. Now with this rhythm, that’s one. Two, be the breast. Three, be the wings. And fourth, start walking. And then pose for each one. Great. (audience laughs) Alright, let’s try again. We’ll do it one more time. Let me deal here. So you can see me. Okay, one more time. Okay, great. Now I want to see sad. Well, actually first, let’s
show an excited rooster. And the pose of an excited
rooster might be like that. Show that excitement. So this is a very happy rooster, okay. But do it slowly first. (audience laughs) Great, now I want to see an angry rooster. Okay. Okay, ready? (audience laughs) One more emotion. What else should we do? Sad? Okay, how about a sad rooster? Let’s see your sad. Oh, okay. They all picked it with the
crown drops, how beautiful. That’s just great, it’s just like a dog’s tail dropping down or their ears fall back. It’s just like that. You have that inside you. So okay, we’ll do one, two, three, four. Whoops, I did it wrong. Wait, this is sad, right? Yes. Great, so now you get the
feeling of the beat on four. So for improv you could
just do whatever you want but the important thing is this first, this second, the wings third, and the feet fourth. That’s the most important part. But when I count for you in the rhythm, you don’t have to follow
one for the crown, two for the breast, three for the wings. You could mix them up but
just do it by how you feel but follow the beat, feel the beat in you. And then you can clap as I
go one, two, three, four. (clapping) Now just go ahead and clap, clap for one. Two, three, four. Okay, so that was like the rooster. (audience laughs) And that becomes really complicated. You can go backwards, you can go forwards, you can go to the feet, you could go from the feet to the crown, to the go by speed, you’ll go slower. Maybe the rooster’s doing a rumba and will dance like this. Or the cha-cha-cha. So there’s a lot of movement involved and music and rhythm and poetic language and facial expression all included in this storytelling poem. Thank you for being
willing to come up here. Beautiful job. – [Interpreter] Wow, time is flying by. Alright. Briefly, there’s a cow and
the rooster’s chasing the cow. There’s a story that I plan to show you but it’s not fully about the cow, it’s really about the rooster. You can see the cow. You can see how he’s chewing his cud on the bottom of his jaw. Kinda like she said. Yeah, you want to move like the animal, you don’t want to move it upside down, you want to kind of keep it in proportion. You don’t want to be
like a upside down cow, that’s not gonna make any sense. So that was the cow. Now we’re gonna have the rooster. And let me tell you about the
different parts of this story. So there’s a cow, there’s a rooster, there’s a farmer with a beard. This kind of farmer. That’s the farmer, it’s a sunny day, he’s been out working in the sun all day. It’s kind of slow. He’s got a couple hundred
acres to mow on this tractor. He’s going along. He’s just looking at the
home all day going gosh, I wish I could be in there. But anyway, this guy’s happy. Got a happy life, feeling free. And however farmers do. And then there’s the house. There’s a small house
where the rooster lives and then the big house
where the farmer lives. And the rooster’s gonna play
three musical instruments. The first one’s gonna be
this, a violin or viola. Whichever word you prefer, you use whichever one you want. Viola might be smaller,
violin a little bigger, right? Or but do I have it backwards? Is the viola smaller? Viola’s bigger? Viola is bigger, violin
is smaller, am I right? Somebody, anybody? Okay, anyway, so there’s a viola or there’s a little violin. Alright, so remember that. Thank you for helping me
figure out the difference. Anyway, so you have the violin, you’re gonna have a piano, and then also a Bluetooth or a CD player or something. Farmers tend to have kind of old things, so well, probably it’s a
record player or CD player. Anyway so the CD music, it’s gonna have three different songs. First one’s gonna be a ballet, the second one’s gonna be hip-hop, and then the last one is, I’m sorry, the last one is hip-hop. The middle one is going to be tap. Tap music. So ballet, tap, and then hip-hop. This is sign for hip-hop. I’ve already told you all the things that are going to be in this story, so just watch for that. Oops, let me back up, I
forgot to give you the title. There’s a rooster and
there’s a farmer here. Get some balance here, here we go. (audience laughs) (claps) (audience laughs) (feet tapping) (audience laughs) (claps) (audience laughs) We’re out of time. Thank you so much, thank you all for coming today. Thank you. Hey, if anybody has any
questions or anything, feel free to get in touch with Dolph and Dolph could get that information to me if you have any questions, okay? Thank you.

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