NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - As the cast and crew of the Children of a Lesser God revival gathered for the first time on Broadway, they were united. The play tells the story of a hearing man and deaf woman who fall in love while working together in a school. The group is transcending the barriers that are so often constructed between the deaf and hearing communities.
"There's a lot of deaf talent out there that is on the rise," signed producer Nyle DiMarco, who won both America's Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars. He said that this show sends a clear message.
"A lot of people think deaf people don't have a culture or don't have their own language—and we have a thriving culture and a beautiful language," DiMarco signed. "A huge deaf community—and people don't realize that there are 360 million deaf people worldwide."
This production features both deaf and hearing actors, including Lauren Ridloff and Joshua Jackson, respectively. And for them the process of working together was eye-opening.
"What you learn is if you take the time and you have the patience and with an open heart try to bridge that gap—get into your own uncomfortable place," said Jackson, who first rose to fame on Dawson's Creek. "So often I think the reason we don't hear each other is because it's our discomfort that makes us shut down."
"This is a love story about two people that really love each other—it doesn't matter their differences, their culture, their language, their modes of communication," Ridloff signed. "And I hope that people will remember that when they look at other people that they already have in their lives and start listening to each other. "
Director Kenny Leon has been leading the charge in bridging the barriers on stage.
"The challenge is trying to listen and respect everybody in the room," Leon said. "And on the first day of rehearsal, I said, 'Look, let's not tiptoe around each other because we're going to offend each other."
"He said, 'We're going to have conflict, we're going to have misunderstanding because we're human,' and then you add that extra layer of being deaf and hearing," cast member Kecia Lewis said. "And so the important thing is to be an adult, be honest about the misunderstanding and the conflict and talk to each other."
The cast and crew feel that message resonates particularly powerfully during this time in history.
"A lot of what's going wrong in the country right now is our inability to communicate with each other," Jackson said. "And the fact that we're not really often listening to each other—we're kind of talking past each other."
"People seem to be divided, you know, there seem to be two different camps as opposed to people going, 'Oh, we have a similar problem,'" cast member Anthony Edwards said. "No, we have very different problems."
"We just push people away who are different than we are—and maybe because of hearing or not hearing and maybe because of race and maybe because of physical challenge," Leon said. "We just push people away. And we got to stop it."
Children of a Lesser God, by Mark Medoff | In previews now; opens April 11 | STUDIO 54, 254 W. 54 St., New York, NY | childrenofalessergodbroadway.com