This study addresses a gap in scholarship on leadership styles in the Deaf community. There is an invisible style of leadership differing from the mainstream culture that has not been previously addressed in the literature at any depth. My study was composed of three interlocking parts in a sequence that constitutes the practice of anthropology: fieldwork, analysis, and presentation. The foundation for my fieldwork was an “archeology of the structure of the perceived world” (Merleau-Ponty), using the holding environment of the rehearsal process and the structural process of an acting technique called Del-Sign. Del- Sign is a fusion acting style that I created by combining American Sign Language and the Delsarte method. I also employed current qualitative methods described as “performance ethnography” (Norman Denzin and Ron Pelias). The fieldwork of creating discussion groups, which I call salons, provided the initial material, my analysis process turned that material into a performance script; and audience participation in the form of talk-back sessions after the performance provided documentation for the results of the presentation. I provided data for the fieldwork with journaling and videotaping events in rehearsals and performances, director’s notes, and observations. The participants in this study offered great contributions to the research design, and social and cultural contexts were shifted by their action in the research. Their participation was analyzed in the context of Action Research (Argyris, 1985). The resulting findings from the data were compared to anthropological and folkloric theories of performance and style. I was able to create and study a bridge, created through performance, between a hearing audience and a marginalized and, therefore, often oppressed Deaf culture. Analysis of the data indicted that this performance bridge was the critical element of potential “change” in my study, thus addressing the gap in scholarly literature. Individuals in both the audience and the cast reported a change in perception about the opposing culture. The study results also indicated a unique style of leadership by Deaf people within a Deaf community that is collaborative in nature yet values the individual. I trust further study into that aspect of Deaf leadership will indeed adjust the margins of society.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Deaf, Theater for the; Acting; American Sign Language; Leadership; Deaf culture

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Department, Program, or Center

Cultural and Creative Studies (NTID)


Kenny, Carolyn

Advisor/Committee Member

Holloway, Elizabeth

Advisor/Committee Member

Aldersley Polowe, Stephanie


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in February 2013. Winner of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD) 2007 Innovative ETD Award. The Innovative ETD Award recognizes a student’s effort to transform print dissertation through the use of innovative software to create cutting edge ETDs. Luane Ruth Davis Haggerty’s use of video/QuickTime movies are included in the electronic document and were considered part of the innovation of the work.

perform01.mov (1419 kB)
perform02.mov (919 kB)
perform03.mov (1028 kB)
perform04.mov (1928 kB)
perform05.mov (1598 kB)
perform06.mov (1290 kB)
perform07.mov (1157 kB)
perform07a.mov (2955 kB)
perform08a.mov (5230 kB)
perform09a.mov (1306 kB)
rehearsal01.mov (1832 kB)
rehearsal02.mov (1493 kB)
rehearsal03.mov (392 kB)
rehearsal04.mov (721 kB)
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rehearsal18.mov (1010 kB)
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salons01.mov (356 kB)
salons02.mov (3040 kB)
salons03.mov (378 kB)
salons04.mov (1754 kB)
salons05.mov (1246 kB)
salons06.mov (4565 kB)
salons07.mov (1023 kB)
salons08.mov (1432 kB)
salons09.mov (380 kB)
salons10.mov (3570 kB)
salons11.mov (353 kB)
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salons13.mov (297 kB)
salons14.mov (1941 kB)
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salons19.mov (425 kB)
salons20.mov (4766 kB)
salons21.mov (4122 kB)
salons22.mov (309 kB)
salons23.mov (1436 kB)


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