Questionable Actions by Manhattan Repertory Theatre Owner

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Updated to include Ken Wolf’s statement

Wednesday, March 20, 2019 Elizabeth Botti and Samuel entered dress rehearsal at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, for their play that was slated to be open to the public on March 22 and 23, 2019. “The interpreter was running late and I wanted to demonstrate to other cast members where the interpreter would be standing” Samuel told The Deaf Report when sharing what happened that night. “The Artistic Director told us that there would be no interpreter allowed on stage, for they will be standing in the aisle where there is no light!” 

The Deaf Report checked their website and it states that Ken Wolf is their Artistic Director. According to Elizabeth, the Deaf community in New York City had been invited to view this play and they were trying to plan ahead and ensure that the interpreter would be in the correct place. There had been prior arrangements made between the director of their play and the artistic director to have an interpreter present. Elizabeth and Samuel sent an email later in the evening to Wolf and shared their concerns, “Sorry. I forgot to ask. In addition, if indeed this does work, can we be moved to be first so Kim [interpreter] can have the opportunity to at least have patrons have access to the interpreter?”, Elizabeth asked in terms of their play.

The photograph on Facebook that Elizabeth used to share their email conversation states, “With all due respect.. Absolutely not.” Ken continues to explain his position and acknowledges that this was not the perfect set up, however it was a decision and this is what he chose. “Regretfully, and this is my final answer as producer and organizer of this event, I will not under any circumstance have the interpreter on stage during the other plays. And I will have a way so that the interpreter can be seen during those other plays by hearing impaired patrons.” He ends his email with “It will be fun so lets keep it fun!”

Monique Holt, Deaf Theater Practitioner at HowlRound Theatre Commons was contacted by The Deaf Report. She said while the sentiment is wonderful, many artistic directors feel defensive of their space and since this is a small theatre, it would’ve probably gone over better with the artistic director if the actors had used their director to discuss their concerns [in reference to the evening of dress rehearsal and with no background knowledge of what had or had not transpired between actors and the director of the play] about placement of interpreter.

“This would’ve been the best approach rather than addressing the artistic director themselves.” said Holt. “One thing to remember is that often there are theatres that have accessibility directors that hire interpreters among other accommodations. That person would be the best person to inquire information about placement of interpreter from.”

Ken Wolf informed The Deaf Report that he never signed up for a deaf audience and that the accusations by Elizabeth and Samuel are unfounded. He also informed The Deaf Report that he was not willing to have an interpreter for the other three plays because none of the other directors requested or approved interpreters for they would ruin the creativity flow of the play. “I feel deeply hurt and saddened by this whole thing.” Wolf

Elizabeth told The Deaf Report that they had removed themselves from the play due to the circumstances they are in. “We are appalled and disgusted. Out of respect for our loved ones and the Deaf community, that is why we decided to pull out of this performance.”

About Trisha:

Trisha Withem is the co-founder of The Deaf Report where she works to bring news to the community. She graduated with her BS and MS from Rochester Institute of Technology and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Follow her on Twitter: @TrishaTDR