More than a parental generation gap in ‘CODA’
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
When actor Mark Murray began writing a stage play about his life growing up with Deaf parents, it seemed like just another school project. Now, three years later, he is performing his one-man show CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) at festivals across the United States and Canada, including his most recent performance at the 30th Vancouver Fringe Festival.
The show explores the challenges and benefits of living in two different worlds, one with speech and one with sign language. Murray acts out scenes from his childhood and teen years using spoken dialogue and sign language, so audiences of both languages can understand.
“When writing the scenes I wanted to make sure that the audience could follow what was happening even though half of the dialogue wasn’t spoken,” Murray wrote to the Other Press. “However, the exception to this was the scene between the mother and father that is in only sign language. I wanted the audience to experience what the Deaf often do in everyday life: being left out of the conversation.”
While the hearing audience members feel excluded during the signed scenes, Murray often arranges for a Deaf interpreter at his performances, so the Deaf audience members do not feel they are missing part of the show.
“The Deaf and CODA communities have been very positive about the production, especially because I have tried to have at least one American Sign Language interpreted performance for each run,” he wrote.
The show is a personal look at Murray’s life, his often strained relationship with his parents, and the relationships his parents have with friends and family. He gives details about his parents’ backgrounds during monologues about them, such as how his father has 11 siblings and none of them have ever learned sign language, and how his mother signs lively conversations with her friends but will only communicate with him through his father.
“My parents have always been of the mindset that ‘it’s your life, it’s your choice.’ So, in that way they have been supportive. They haven’t seen the show yet, but once they do I will be interested in their opinion on it,” Murray wrote.
The show concludes with Murray deciding to move away from home so he can pursue his own dreams instead of being his parents’ aide all the time. His advice to Children of Deaf Adults is that “as a CODA, you will always feel responsible for protecting your parents, but they have been taking care of themselves for a lot longer than you’ve been around.”
Murray will continue touring with CODA in January 2015, with his first stop being in Austin, Texas (his home state) for the 22nd FronteraFest.
For more information about CODA or Murray’s other works, check out his website at markmurrayartist.com