Video Transcript: They weren't looking for a Deaf actor, so this is what I did...
JOHN McGINTY: Hi, my name is John McGinty. This is my name sign. This video is for everyone including deaf talent, interpreters, artists, hearing people, who are willing to work with deaf artists. Anyone at all. I want to share my personal experience as a Deaf artist. My personal experience from 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. I realized that this coming February will be the one year anniversary from when I first auditioned for the show. Time flies by! I want to say something important for the young deaf generation, who want to work in this career, I learned that the idea that age has a deadline and you have to do all these particular things... That's false! It doesn't matter, even if you're 5, 12, 13, 21, 40... whatever. Plus, everyone does have different experiences. Some of you may have more experience than I do. Our processes are different.
The reason why this specific gig impacted me greatly as an artist is that it was one of the rare opportunities... Well, not the first time, but... Well, it was the first time that I felt like I was part of the team. Part of the collaboration. It is important that you want to work with someone who believes in you, who is interested to work with you and exchange ideas. It is so important that you have to be ready and deliver who you are, share your ideas, and be willing to be open and work with other people. At times, it will work, and sometimes it won't. I want you to join my journey from back then. When Sacramento Music Circus in Sacramento... The productions for Music Circus... Whatever they were about... I'm not too sure. When they announced their season I cannot remember what the other productions were. There was 'Hunchback' and a few others... There were five shows in the season. They produced five shows from May to August. Keep in mind, 'Hunchback' was the last production of the season. So when I saw 'Hunchback' is happening through a specific casting call, and I submitted my information including a head-shot and resume... My first thought was there is no way for me to get in.
By the way, when you hear someone else say that networking is important. It is true. So, having skills with networking will help you get in the door. True. Some people with talent but no networking happen to soar... But the networking part is so important. For instance, the director for 'Hunchback' and I worked together in the past for a two day workshop quite a while back. I didn't know him very well from that time, as it was just from two days. But when I realized that he was going to be the director for 'Hunchback' I knew this was my opportunity to work with him again because he knows how to work with a deaf actor, etc. So... I had two options at the time, 1. I could submit my information to a casting call online and say nothing and see if I was contacted or not... Or send my information and get in touch with the director, and see if he remembered working with me before etc.
Two days later, the director emailed me and asked for my agent information, so I send that through to him. Finally, my agent sent me all the audition information including the dates for 'Hunchback' etc. But it was clear that they weren't look for a deaf actor to play the role of Quasimodo. I am going off topic just for a moment now, it is important that you look for a role that you want to do. And it's important that the role fits you. For example, when I look at some roles that I really, really want I realise that they don't fit me, for various reasons. I cannot even submit for a role that is for a 1st grader, a kid. I mean, look at me. It is important to know your whole package. So, anyway... When I realized that Quasimodo is deaf in Victor Hugo's novel... I thought, "Bam! Why not? Why not!?" Why not have a deaf actor play a deaf character? Plus, it is a musical. So, it is clear that the people doing the casting first think... Who will sing it... etc. I can't sing, I can just sign to the song. So... I have to be ready for ideas to share with them in terms what will work or not.
Finally, when it was time for my audition, I remember seeing different people in the hallway. I was sitting next to my interpreter and discussing my needs, etc. One other guy, who was sitting across from me, looked at me like, "Why is a deaf actor sitting across from me?" They are not looking for a deaf actor for this musical. And he's right. None of the roles were specifically for a deaf person. So he was right. But, I had two options that time, because I was so nervous while sitting among many hearing people. I was the only deaf person. Luckily, I had another interpreter sitting next to me. I could have walked away, or sit and do my best. Finally they called my name, and I walked in. 'Hunchback' was produced earlier and I had their soundtrack. I played the song from my phone and performed the song. It is clear that when you leave the room, you will have a tough time letting it go. You'll be thinking about whether or not you will get a callback. I understand as an artist it can be really sensitive thinking about your audition performance. I totally get that. But it's important to let go and move on.
A week later, I got a callback. Good news! And it was from the producers from Sacramento Music Circus. Finally, I walked in and did the same thing. They asked me, "Do you have any questions for us?" And I thought, this is my golden opportunity to explain my situation and how this could work out. I also provided some ideas. So, planning for if a deaf character was in the story. And some ideas about the gargoyle friends and different ways they could communicate. I could see and feel their energy shift and you could see their eyes getting wider. And I realized that I'm advocating for myself while I'm educating them and it can generate opportunities for lots of different artists out there. So, I am advocating for myself for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. And once I open a door, then they will open many doors for you. So, I finished the discussion and left the room. Now, the ball is in their court.
Months later... I think it was around March? A month or two later... I got a call from the director to discuss more about my needs and what it will look if I go to Sacramento. The director wanted to be clear with me that we only have nine days to rehearse. Nine days. That's it. Rehearsals finished. I couldn't say, "Oh, um..." It is important to be optimistic and so I said, "OK, that's fine." However, in the back of my mind, I thought, how will this work!? So... I tried to make it work by collaborating and sharing ideas. We may agree or disagree, but it is important that we both have the same vision of the show. The phone call ended. Weeks later, I heard nothing. I thought... Oh boy, nothing happened.
Finally, one day, I got an email, the next thing I discovered, I am on the plane to Sacramento. With only nine days to rehearse, I memorized the script before rehearsal. And it's actually a fact that I've never seen the Disney movie. Never. And I've never seen the production either. So I am going in with no knowledge, which is either a good or bad idea. So going in there... I remember my first day of rehearsal, I could see many people around me, who are hearing and thought, oh man, this will either work or not. But it's important to remember that this is not about you or me, this is about all these other people. I remember the director, the first time they said... Wait, here's an example... You know, when you hire a Deaf actor, it is normal to work on translations, and the process, Deaf culture, etc for more than one week. But, with nine days of rehearsal... We had ten minutes to do that. So once we accomplished this goal in just 10 minutes, the director said, "OK, let's block the whole first act. "Act one." "But of course, at the same time you will work with the music, etc." I felt like I was taking a master class in musical theatre.
So... Really, the most important thing that I have to thank is the interpreters and their support throughout the process. and it is important that you speak up about your needs, desires, what you want, etc. All deaf artists are varied and we have different preferences. I only had nine days to work on this so personal issues needed to step aside. So... Moving forwards... Those nine days flew by. I've learned so much in terms of speaking up. Growing up, I tended to be passive, follow what they want, accommodate their wishes, their needs... And I realized, if I continued this... If I continued this path, something is up. Something is not right. So I really encourage you to speak up if something doesn't feel right. So, speaking up for your needs will help your colleagues know what's best for the production, which includes visual cues, etc. At times, I will say, you know I cannot move forward until I get this visual cue set up.
Thank you to the cast for their support and we had to exchange some favors because as a team, we are working on this together. I remember during the preview, from day one to the first preview, my first thought was, this is it... Time to prove myself. I remember behind the curtains, in a rounded area, I was waiting off stage and I had a moment to appreciate my many mentors, deaf artists, especially those who taught me about so many things. When I get on stage, I am not doing this for myself, I am doing this for the younger generation, because it's important to pass this on to them. I want to see more opportunities for them. For all of you.
What excites me the most is that Disney saw this and responded with a positive remark, such as "Oh, cool." It means the light bulb went on for them. And I feel like I did my job. Now, it is your turn. I hope to see many of you. If you see something you want, your dream role, whatever you desire, get up in the morning, go online, email a bunch of people and ask for help! OK? I am sure that tomorrow, I will ask someone for help. I want to thank you for your continued support, love and belief. Again, to the Deaf community, we are one big family. Please continue and support each other. We need support. We need to have an open dialogue, because that dialogue will help other people understand you and our community. It will educate and create a healthy discussion, which will create a great product. And that product will bring more benefits to everyone.
One last thing I want to pass on to you. It is okay to make mistakes. Oh my, I am such a perfectionist, until after realizing something during the 'Hunchback', the show must go on. I missed my entrance once... It happened just once, during the opening night. OK, thank you for watching it's important to keep going!