I got a chance to watch an incredible performance called, “Fernando and His Llama” written by Juan Jaramillo. It was presented by 258Signs “Dancing Hands Theatre”. This show is based on Jaramillo’s own experience of being a Deaf boy who moved to Canada from Colombia. It will leave you both entertained and educated about the Deaf community.
The show revolves around the main character, Fernando, played by the talented Juanpablo Armani. He had the audience on the edge of their chair with a heartbreaking scene with his mother from the moment he stepped onto the stage.
Then the next he would have you laughing and engaged with his interactive and hilarious performance. Talia Wall-DiGiuseppe plays the character, Llama, and xe was equally impressive with xem animated expressions. Expression is a huge part of sign language).
They are also very interactive with the audience so it was very entertaining on top of being educational about Deaf culture in a way that was both fun and engaging. The show even included a magical scarf that allowed hearing people to learn how to sign ASL – a really cool addition!
The background, designed by Robert Dhola and sewn by Theresa Upton, transitions in the show were particularly impressive. It seamlessly transported the audience from an outdoor village scene to a school setting. The teacher, played by Natasha “Courage” Bacchus, was a standout for me. No words came out of her mouth as she taught, symbolizing the language deprivation experienced by those without access to ASL.
Then came a scene that brought back memories when Fernando and the speech therapist, played by Ralista Rodriguez. They practiced pronouncing words like “ice cream”, “baseball”, “football”, and “airplane” during speech therapy. This really hit me hard as someone who is Deaf and has done speech therapy for 17 years. I almost teared up when he said, “I may not understand her but I memorized the words!”
Another hilarious scene was when the character played by Kayleigh Kennedy introduced herself. She signed, “My name is… nice to meet you.” That’s… uh… nice. Cue the awkward smile. This is also symbolic of how hearing people often make an effort to learn how to sign with the bare minimum. There are often excuses like, “It’s too hard” or “I’m too busy to learn another language.”
The show even had two puppets, played by Robert Haughton and Courage in the show, which were very cool and provided educational moments on how to interact with a Deaf person.
Overall, “Fernando and His Llama” is a personal story that is perfect for children and adults alike. It touches on the barriers that the Deaf community faces while highlighting the joy that can be found in embracing the culture. This show is both entertaining and educational. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to learn more about Deaf culture. This would be an amazing TV Kid show (hint).