When embarking on an endeavor to co-create an empowering theatrical environment, connecting in a respectful and mindful way is paramount. Hearing run theatre companies will ultimately always produce different theatre experiences than would emerge from within the Deaf community but that gap can be bridged. A first step in engaging a Deaf playwright, Deaf cast and crew is to reach out to Deaf community leaders for advice and to hire a Deaf community consultant to assist with this process. This will mitigate the error of cultural appropriation and begin a positive journey of exploration and collaboration with members of the Deaf community.
In keeping with the Deaf community’s value of the collective, issues may arise related to copyright. If a story has been developed by members of the Deaf community but has been recorded by a hearing playwright, it is best for them to come to agreement in advance regarding how copyright will be determined. From the Deaf community’s perspective, the story belongs to them as the story emerged from their experience and their life stories. From some playwright’s perspectives the play belongs to him or her as he or she wrote it down. Since ASL is a “through the air” language, from the Deaf community perspective, telling their story in ASL incorporates their narrative style and their life experience. It can be captured as a “literary text” on video. Whether it is a shared process or not, it is important to determine copyright before embarking on a collaborative script-writing endeavor and before an agreement is finalized. Some of the theatrical styles in which this issue is relevant, include but are not exclusive to, collective creation, devised works, verbatim theatre, documentary theatre or combinations of the above. The Playwrights Guild of Canada will offer advice to producing companies and to members of the Deaf community regarding agreements with writers, and in particular advise on appropriate language to protect copyright for collective members and contributors to a creative work.