Dozens of students put on a special performance of ‘Once Upon a Mattress’ at the Queens Theatre, which combined the talents of deaf and hearing actors.
The Dec. 11 and 12 productions included more than 40 actors from Lexington School for the Deaf and the Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts. Students doubled up on roles to present the musical in both American Sign Language and spoken and sung English.
“This is not two high schools onstage, this is one company,” Director Jared R. Lopatin wrote in the show’s playbill. “You are not seeing deaf students act and hearing students interpret for them. You are seeing one cast performing for you.”
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea,” “Once Upon a Mattress” tells the comedic story of a far off kingdom where a prince longs to marry. His mother, the queen, refuses him to marry anyone who is not a “true princess” and prohibits anyone in the kingdom from marrying until he does.
Every princess who comes to marry the prince has failed the queen’s royal tests. Until one day, a special princess comes along and the queen tries to thwart her chances to marry her son.
Lopatin is a digital media teacher at Lexington and has been directing the school’s drama club shows for several years. Under his direction, actors have performed in Shakespeare, farce and even a production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”
But he has wanted to put together a collaboration between deaf and hearing students for some time.
“It’s been a dream of mine to see Deaf and hearing actors working together to create something magical,” Lopatin said. “We do not live in a vacuum. Theatre, especially, cannot happen alone. So, we share our cultures, our languages, our viewpoints, all while working toward a common goal.”
This collaboration and message of inclusion was also important to the Queens Theatre, which launched Theatre to All in 2017. The program’s purpose is to advance disability inclusion in the performing arts.
“We are thrilled we got to work with this amazing cast on this show,” Queens Theatre Executive Director Taryn Sacramone said. “It was an amazing show. And we are looking forward to working with the Lexington School for the Deaf on future projects.”
The theater, located in the heart of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, is fully wheelchair accessible, including entryways, theater spaces, and restrooms.
Each year, 60,000 New York City residents and visitors participate in the Queens Theatre’s programming. The theater offers more than 300 performances and theater, dance and musical programs and has also supported the development of more than 150 plays by emerging, diverse writers.