Clifford’s Mary-Jayne Russell: Deafinitely Theater’s play “Everyday” about domestic violence

Walking into Birmingham Rep’s theater I knew I would walk out with a grateful heart, knowing that this topic is so essential to share as a theatrical performance. Education through the arts is so important and often the best way to raise awareness.

Deafinitely Theater’s last performance was part of their 20th anniversary and this time, Paula Garfield, the artistic director, decided to design the production by writing, discussing, directing and creating a professional play called “Everyday”.

This production has been gathered from accounts of true stories by non-binary Deaf and Deaf women detailing their traumatic experiences as victims of domestic violence. As we all know, the deaf community is very small, but abuse happens every day. It is this small size in our community that can make it difficult to be open and aware of what we are going through.

When we have been abused in any form, this in turn can make us feel extremely isolated from our own Deaf community – a community in which we once felt happy and rooted. Deafinitely Theater‘s performance of Everyday successfully conveyed the message that people are not alone and he actively encourages survivors to feel comfortable returning to the community while feeling safe.

I had the honor of watching the research and development (R&D) of this piece a few months ago and saw how they crafted 20 minutes of exploring, creating and empowering stories from deaf survivors.

When I watched their R&D, the first thing that came to mind was how I thought this production would offer each individual a healing journey through their heart, mind, and soul. Paula also included a spiritual journey for each of the characters on stage, as it can be very important for everyone to have a spiritual connection while they heal from abuse.

The spiritual energy of the play spread through the room as the story remained centered with a sense of safety in space. One of the props – the teapot – was actually one of the key elements that represented how we pour out to reflect on our past, let go of our past and move on, together.

There were also a few light laughs throughout the show which clearly demonstrated Deaf culture and Deaf identity. You can also see and appreciate the beauty of British Sign Language, a language so naturally rich that I feel it conveys domestic abuse messages more powerfully because it is so visual.

In the full performance, each character’s voices, hearts and hands were heard and seen. The stories came from those who felt vulnerable but now felt valuable. We have heard of the wide range and techniques of abuse ranging from ghosting to sexual abuse in any kind of relationship between families, couples and friends.

The details depicted in the play rose gently in the form of descriptive monologues from each character and it was most certainly educational in the safe space. The audience took the time to absorb, empathize, “chew” and give compassion.

In the end, each of us felt the same – we all felt that no one deserved to be hurt, which is why this production is absolutely essential to tell all the survivors sitting in the audience that they don’t are not alone. I felt especially thrilled to see a non-binary person on the show because they’re as equal as women.

I would like to encourage you to reach out if you are hurting or struggling. “Everyday” is a warm and safe show.

Please contact a charity for help if you are one of the survivors or are currently struggling. Daily suffering can stop everyday for you.

A huge shout out to Paula’s playwright for this show and the actors were phenomenal. Thank you for conceiving and shooting this production.

Mary-Jayne Russell of Clifford is a professional theater writer, facilitator and director, BSL worship leader and trainer, BSL storyteller, BSL poet and mentor. Mary-Jayne has degrees in Theater Arts, Education and Deaf Studies. She has worked with Deafinitely Theatre, Vamos Theatre, Taking Flight Theater and is currently re-establishing her theater company, DeDrama (temporary name)

Photo credit: Becky Bailey

SignHealth can help provide support and information to people experiencing domestic violence. Their website lists all the services here.

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline has a BSL Helpline (in partnership with SignVideo) so if deaf people need advice/support they can contact the Helpline directly. It is available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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