Wolf Administration Announces First-of-its-Kind Project in the Commonwealth to Expand Live Theatrical Experiences to Pennsylvanians Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Canonsburg, PA – Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary for Business Finance & Workforce Development Carol Kilko and Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Office for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (ODHH) Executive Director Melissa Hawkins today announced a project that will provide Pennsylvanians who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing with an expanded live theatrical experience, a first-of-its-kind initiative in the commonwealth made possible by Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) funds.

“Through the NAP program, private businesses across Pennsylvania invest in non-profit projects in exchange for state tax credits – a win for everyone,” said Deputy Secretary Kilko. “Today, I’m thrilled to celebrate this unique partnership between Little Lake Theatre, the Western PA School for the Deaf and private business. This investment in the arts provides an educational experience for young people that will expose them to future job opportunities.”

NAP awardees were announced in November 2021 and the funding supported 220 non-profit projects across Pennsylvania. The $16,500 in NAP funds awarded to Little Lake Theatre Company are being used to create “Journey into Theater with Hands and Voices.”

Little Lake Theatre is partnering with the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (WPSD) to create the signed-access educational/performance program, which is an emerging art form in communities across the country. The goal is to foster a partnership with the Deaf community and create a model for expanding the live theatrical experience to artists, performers and audience members who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing from the front of house, behind-the-scenes, and on the stage. Additionally, the project will expose children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing to an array of jobs available in the arts, specifically live theater.

“One of ODHH’s main duties is advocacy and working on behalf of the people who may not always be able to self-advocate,” said Director Hawkins. “As I am deaf myself, I recognize that there are significant challenges to advocating for yourself and having support from someone who recognizes these barriers goes a long way. We are thrilled to be here for the launch of this first-of-its-kind partnership in Pennsylvania.”

The 10-month program will culminate in a full-scale theater production of “Captain Louie, Jr.” that will use both American Sign Language and spoken English.

“Little Lake Theatre is proud to integrate this type of programming for the first time in our region and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Patti Knapp, Little Lake Theatre managing director. “Combining American Sign Language with spoken language links the Deaf and hearing communities, providing more exposure to sign language, and educating the public about Deaf art.”

“We are thrilled about this new collaboration between the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and the Little Lake Theater. Our partnership is incredibly valuable not only for the new opportunities it will offer to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in the performing arts but also for the increased awareness it will bring to Deaf culture and American Sign Language in our region,” said Dr. Steve Farmer, WPSD’s CEO. “This is a win-win for everyone, and we are excited to be a part of this project.”

NAP encourages private sector investment into non-profit community projects by providing tax credits to businesses that donate capital to address neighborhood and community initiatives.

“The LaCarte family saw its support of the Little Lake Theatre and its partner the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf as a perfect opportunity to express our gratitude and “pay forward” the support we received in our time of need during the pandemic,” said John J. LaCarte, president of LaCarte Enterprises which owns Model Cleaners. “My daughter Grace is a student at the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University and believes that through theatre we can inspire change by promoting greater diversity, inclusivity and acceptance in the world. Our family could not be more proud to be part of such an aspirational program.”

NAP can be used for projects in categories including affordable housing, community services, crime prevention, education, job training, charitable food, blight, special population issues, veteran’s initiatives, and long-term community revitalization. A description of each of these components is available within the NAP fact sheet.

For more information about the Wolf Administration’s commitment to community development, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Penny Ickes, DCED, dcedpress@pa.gov
Alex Peterson, L&I, dlipress@pa.gov

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