Award-winning author and illustrator Brian Selznick was at The Fountain Theatre this weekend to see our smash hit production of Cyrano. Selznick is the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was made into the Oscar-winning film Hugo directed by Martin Scorsese.
What was Selznick’s special interest in seeing our signed/spoken version of Cyrano? One of the main characters in his most recent book, Wonderstruck, is partially deaf.
In a Q&A with Publisher’s Weekly, Selznick talked about his book and deafness:
Where did the idea come from to include deaf characters?
I started what became Wonderstruck while I was still working on Hugo. I had been thinking about Deaf culture after seeing this really, really good documentary, Through Deaf Eyes, which is about the history of Deaf culture. There was a line about how the deaf are a “people of the eye.” Most of the ways they communicate is visually. To me, that was the perfect reason to tell a story about a deaf person through illustrations. I had met deaf people who told me the thing they liked most about Hugo was the silence. Even when you’re reading words, you hear those words in your head but telling a story through pictures, there’s a feeling of silence about that and they really liked that.
Carol Padden and Tom Humphries from the University of California-San Diego, two of the leading Deaf scholars in the country, read my manuscript again and again and again to help me fine-tune the experience of the Deaf culture to make sure it was true to deaf people in general and to these two characters I was writing about. They were incredibly generous with their time and there was no way I could have written the book without them.
There’s also a line in the acknowledgments about being deaf in a hearing family and having to look for one’s culture outside of one’s biological family. This made me think about being gay in a heterosexual family.
Yep. That’s exactly the parallel I was thinking about. In Through Deaf Eyes, there was a young man raised by hearing parents. His parents were great, incredibly supportive, but it wasn’t until he got to college that he became aware he was part of a larger culture that had its own history he could share and be proud of. Growing up gay, there’s this exact parallel. And you don’t have to be deaf or gay to feel like you don’t belong to your own family. So many people have the experience of feeling that the family they were born into is not a good fit: An artist who is born into a family of non–artists, or a kid who is not interested in sports who is born into a family of athletes — there are a million parallels for that situation. You have the family you’re born into but you have this need to meet other people who are uniquely like you. One of the things that people told me they were most moved by in Hugo was how he creates a new family for himself. That’s a truth for so many people. You leave your family and create a family for yourself that’s often a better fit. Wonderstruck is a more direct way of exploring that same theme.
Cyrano Now to July 29 (323) 663-1525 More Info