The show must go on, perhaps even virtually! Learn more
NTID Department of Performing Arts was established in the fall of 1974, with the opening of the college's new permanent buildings, as an integral part of the curriculum following the success of the student drama club founded by Dr. Robert Panara in 1969.
Today, NTID Department of Performing Arts offers an array of theatre courses and produces 3 productions and one outreach tour per season.
We are very proud of our students' accomplishments and our programs. Our success is demonstrated by the fact that, while we have no major in theatre, historically, the majority of Deaf theatre professionals have been NTID students or faculty. They have appeared, and continue to appear, in national and regional television commercials, network and cable television programs, major motion pictures and independent films, national and international theatre tours, Broadway, regional theatres, and international theatre festivals. Our programs and our students, faculty, staff and alumni have been honored with numerous awards from organizations ranging from theatres to government agencies to corporations and private foundations.
We also offer a professional traveling troupe, Sunshine 2.0, that provides performances and activities for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults that highlight the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM), as well as educational topics about the Deaf experience. For more information, visit their site.
Classes are taught by a dedicated group of award-winning theatre professionals who teach a variety of classes in the area of performance and technical theatre.
NTID Department of Performing Arts offers a special certificate in performing arts that documents the academic training students receive while actively participating in Performance or Technical Theatre activities.
The Performing Arts Certificate program broadens employment opportunities for Deaf graduates in applied arts and imaging, professional and technical communication and related business areas, industrial technologies, and other fields by expanding their repertoire of marketable skills. Students develop knowledge of standard theatrical operating procedures along with principles and practices of theatre accessibility for Deaf people, allowing them to work in professional, regional and community theatre. It also provides a solid foundation for those who wish to pursue further education in film, video, theatre, and related forms of performing arts.
Each season several productions are produced in the Panara Theatre and 1510 Lab Theatre. These productions are presented simultaneously by Deaf actors who sign the lines and hearing actors who speak the lines.
Every aspect of an NTID production is accessible to both Deaf and hearing people: back stage, onstage, or in the house. The following sections will give you an idea of how we produce this unique form of theatre.
2021 - 2022 Theatrical Season
A venue for Deaf playwrights; an interpretation of a Tony Award-winning musical; performance by talented student dancers; and New Yorkers struggling with relationships and identity during the AIDS crisis are all part of a new collaborative season by Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts Department and the College of Liberal Arts.
NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts are thrilled to announce the new joint theatrical season. The partnership between NTID and the College of Liberal Arts is a long-term collaboration in which strong backgrounds in performance, acting, directing, dance and music converge to create stunning theatrical productions.
The plays and dance performance present a wide array of cultural, political, and social issues.
Directed by Andy Head
November 19-21, 2021
Robert F. Panara Theatre
New York City in the 1980s. President Reagan sits in the White House while the AIDS crisis rages on. Caught in the middle are a Valium-addicted Mormon and her closeted lawyer husband and two men ripped apart by an AIDS diagnosis. These New Yorkers are desperately fighting for survival as they wrestle with love, politics, and God. Throw in a few ghosts, angels, and the infamous McCarthy-sidekick Roy Cohn and you have a fantastical and heart-breaking story. Tony Kushner's ANGELS IN AMERCA is an epic masterpiece of American drama and is the winner of the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Directed by Marc Holland
February 11-13, 2022
Robert F. Panara Theatre
The RIT Performing Arts Scholars Showcase features the newly formed RIT DanceCore, an ensemble of talented student dancers with choreography by DanceCore director, Marc Ellis Holland and RIT director of dance, Thomas Warfield. More than exploring different ways to make a shape or learning a series of steps to music, this dance performance presents ways of moving that use the body as an instrument of expression and communication. The performance will also include collaborations with live music, theatre students and projection design.
Directed by Aaron Kelstone
February 25-27, 2022
1510 Lab Theatre, LBJ Building
NTID Performing Arts will spotlight 4 emerging Deaf playwrights chosen from the eighteen 10-minute plays presented in 2021 at the Chicago, Illinois/Columbia College MAP-Deaf Theatre Festival. Each of the four Deaf playwright’s 10-minute plays were produced by Deaf Spotlight, Deaf Austin Theater, New York Deaf Theatre, and Northern Lights Collective (Canada). The eighteen ten-minute plays will be judged and the top four plays representing each of the four producing groups will be expanded into 1-act or longer length by the NTID Theatre Department. Working with a dedicated team of actors, directors, dramaturgs, and other theatre professionals each of the 10-minute plays will be developed through the remainder of 2021. These four plays created by Deaf playwrights will be showcased during the 2022 Deaf New Play Festival hosted by the NTID Performing Arts Department in February 25-27,2022.
Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Directed by Luane Davis-Haggerty
April 15-17, 2022
Robert F. Panara Theatre
IN THE HEIGHTS tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood--a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind. IN THE HEIGHTS is the winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Musical.
The Robert F. Panara Theatre is named in honor of Dr. Robert Panara, RIT's first Deaf Professor and founder of the NTID Drama Club. A 500 seat auditorium, the theatre has played host numerous guest artists such as Mikail Baryishnikov, Jane Fonda, Louise Fletcher, Marlee Maitlin, National Theatre of the Deaf, Phyllis Frelich, Bernard Bragg, Patrick Graybill, Howie Seago, Cleveland SignStage, Annabelle Gamzon, Garth Fagan Dance, Hartford Ballet, Foreigner, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull, American Deaf Dance Company, and many others.
The theatre opened its doors on October 3, 1974 with a production of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Originally called the Experimental Educational Theatre (EET) the theater department has a rich heritage of offering challenging, entertaining, and provocative works of theater, all created for both Deaf and hearing audiences. We have produced work in a wide variety of theater styles; Comedy, Musical, Dance, Drama, Classical, Kabuki (Japanese), Experimental, Puppets, and new works by both Deaf and hearing authors.
A Unique Form of Theatre
In developing a production that is equally accessible to Deaf and hearing, on-stage, backstage, and for members of the audience, there are many factors to consider that are unique to this form of theater ie: designing costumes and sets that are historically accurate yet provide sightlines and clear background for the Sign Language to play against (it's difficult to read Sign Language from the audience if the actor has on a bright, paisley shirt or the set is a series of "busy" colors and lines); or how to represent off-stage dialog and/or sound effects visually; keeping focus on the actors and not on extraneous, but often necessary movement; how to interpret dialog from the script that is based on sounds such as imitation of another's voice; how to stage or "block" the show so that both the audience and the actors can see each other at all times; how to cue an actor that cannot see the action on stage, but must enter on a certain line; how to incorporate voice actors; and many, many other unique things that make this type of theater so exciting. Design and staging challenges, script translation to Sign Language, and non-traditional casting are examples of the factors that cause our Director's imaginations to soar--much to the benefit of our audiences.
From the experimentation and imagination required to mount one of our productions, we have developed a body of works that have enriched the lives of hundreds of thousands audience members and a working process that has greatly benefitted and encouraged hundreds of young Deaf performers. We are very proud of the fact that many of the Deaf Professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry are our former students, faculty and staff.
Our very successful heritage is now the backbone for our future growth. We are looking to expand our academic programs as well as our relationships with mainstream professional and community theaters. We produced the first-ever "American Deaf Play Creators Festival" and look forward to its continued growth and development. We look forward to the future, having the confidence and desire to promote artistic growth within the Deaf community and awareness of the many talents of Deaf Artists within the hearing community.
The Robert F. Panara Theatre seats 440 people plus 9 handicap accessible spaces.
The 1510 Lab Theatre is our smaller, "blackbox" type of space. In addition to holding classes the space serves as a venue for a variety of experimental, intimate, and student-directed productions.
Numerous successful productions have taken place in this space in a wide variety of theatrical styles. Admission to plays in this space are always free, but due to the popularity of the shows presented here, and because shows tend to fill up fast, we pass out tickets for admission on a first-come, first-served basis one hour prior to curtain on the day of a show--there are no reservations except those made by prior agreement with the House Manager.
The 1510 Lab Theatre holds 50-85 persons, depending on the design of the set.
Make a gift to Buy-A-Seat in the Robert F. Panara Theatre! This gift will make you a permanent supporter of the exciting performing arts program at NTID and a participant in some exciting renovations. We will mount a brass plaque with the inscription of your choice on your seat in the newly renovated theatre. It will be a permanent symbol of your generosity for thousands of theater goers to view each year. And, you will be helping to support the first major renovations to the Robert F. Panara Theatre in its thirty-year history.