This is an informal case study of Deaf leadership as it evidences itself in a theatrical production setting. I call this approach to leadership Collective Individualism (2007). There is not a single leader; instead, there is often a group—a collective of sorts. The typical rehearsal structure for a theatrical production is a comfortable setting for this type of leadership to emerge, if the director is willing to be open to allowing it to happen. The 2016 production of Godspell produced at the National Technical Institute of The Deaf in their lab theatre, toured to the local LORT Theater here in Rochester, NY (Geva Theater), and then moved to New York City working in collaboration with the IRT Theater and performing at the Lexington School for the Deaf. This was a collaborative production, even on an administrative level. It is an accepted fact that Deaf culture emerges from a community effort (Gannon, 1981). Theatre is, by its very nature, a creative community. By analyzing the rehearsal and performance process with elements from several leadership theorists, a common theme appears. The influential leadership of the student/actors who have a strong self-identity and clearly exhibit more stage skills often outweighs positional leadership of working with hearing collaborators who are placed in positions of power—like a director. The process for observing Deaf leadership in this article will use the rehearsal process for Godspell (a musical performance piece that focuses on community building through the use of biblical parables) to mirror the typical formation of Deaf community with its mix of ethnicity (deafness occurs in all cultures and countries), it’s blend of mainstream hearing culture while maintaining a purity of Deaf culture linguistically, and its focus on the ensemble rather than the principle players.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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International Leadership Association Field Notes

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Department, Program, or Center

Cultural and Creative Studies (NTID)


RIT – Main Campus