Development of the Audience of People with Hearing Impairments in Bulgaria

Logo_NCF_BG_new_final_RGB-01  Supported by National Fund Culture “Audience” Program




Marketing strategy for dissemination of the innovative sight-sound performance “Borders”

  • Production of leaflets and posters distributed by the Deaf Union Centers in the cities where the show will be performed.
флаер турне лице




  • Digital advertising campaign on the social network Facebook


borders theatre_trailer




Developing active communication with the public and engaging with our organization


СТАРА ЗАГОРА, 26.02.2019

STARA ZAGORA, 26.02.2019

БУРГАС, 27.02.2019

BURGAS, 27.02.2019


ЯМБОЛ, 28.02.2019

YAMBOL, 28.02.2019

СОФИЯ, 04.03.2019

SOFIA, 04.03.2019



Our contribution to the creation of a methodology for building sight-sound theatrical shows;

My name is Vasil Spasovand I am hearing actor and director. I directed “Kukunor I Unuki” in Bulgaria, as a member of theatre “Tsvete”. the  In my practice I have experienced different variations of theatre – puppet theatre, educational theatre, forum theatre, improvisation theatre, playback theatre, devising theatre,sight specific theatre and labyrinth theatre. So I was very open for the bilingual performance because experimenting with new territories is part of my artistic DNA. I also acted in a performance signing with deaf actors while there was a voice over of the text. The truth is that in Bulgaria there is no tradition of bilingual or inclusive theatre, some occasional performance happens but very rear. So I was ready to dive in the adventure.


Preparing the text

What is the best text for a bilingual play? I still don’t know the answer for this question. I know what is good text for a hearing audience but for both hearing and deaf – it was a question for me as director from the very beginning of the process. So I read the play that I was given “Kukunor I Kalahari” several times and followed my artistic instincts.

The first thing that kept my attention was that they were parts in the text that were rhymed and were very abstract – they were difficult to understand at first glance. So I was thinking about rhyming – the repetition of sound in different words – what value does this have in the deaf world. The answer for me was zero. The hearing audience will have delight in word play, but for the deaf it will be hard to understand and confusing sentences. On the other hand these parts were too abstract and translated into sign language it was really hard to get the real meaning. So my decision was to remove these rhymed parts and if possible to some extend to try to find another way to place their message in the play.

The second thing that I noticed was that the whole play was text based. What I mean by that is that the words themselves were the main tool of the dramatic action. From my knowledge deaf people use many ways to interact with each other and words/signs are just one of them. So my goal as a director was to invent and incorporate more scenes with “no words / signs” in order to balance the text based action. Later in the process I found out that in those scenes the actors among them and the audience was feeling as one, because in these moments all were united and concentrated on the action itself and there were no barriers in words or signs. I made several of those – “Opening scene” which lasted around 8 minutes, in which audience was getting familiar with the characters and the situation, “Shooting scene” – dramatic moment were the woman character was injured, “Romance scene” – flirting/ loving dancing that made the characters getting closer emotionally and physically.

The third thing that for me was very important was the play to have a very clear and strong construction. I knew that because of the two channels of communication all the time on the stage audience will be overwhelmed by the complexity of this particular way of storytelling, so my job as a director was to really have a play that is easy to catch and follow. In short – simple story that is delivered by a very new and complex theatrical way. So I edited the parts that was not very clear for me from a structural and logical point of view.

The last part was translating the text into sign language. This process was made with a translator and the actors, both deaf and hearing. Here the focus was to find the correct signs for the words and if was not working to change the words with similar ones. The tempo was also a big factor – was the timing of signing and speaking the same or someone was faster than the other. This issue was even bigger when started rehearsals on stage.

For me the text for a bilingual play should be different from a play just for hearing people for example. Because you have these two mediums which are combined and you have to find the crossing point of both their strengths. A collaborative approach for me is the best way – no matter if it is one writer with consultant or two writers, both hearing and deaf parts should be involved in this process in order to have this richness of both worlds and expressions.

Preparing the actors

How do you prepare the team of actors – deaf and hearing to do something they have never done before? Of course the answer for me is а step at a time. Our final goal was one character (played both at the same time by a deaf and hearing actor) to interact with another character ( also played by two actors). Most of the team met for the first time on this project so they hardly know each other. But that was not theproblem, the biggest problem at the beginning was doubt. They did not really believed that this method could actually work. My answer was – one step at a time. So we began with games. The first five rehearsals were just for building the team, getting to know each other, feeling their partners on the stage and collaborate – nothing about the play itself. In these games the actors found their common ground – how deaf and hearing interact on stage, what signals they give to their partners. And of course it was a lot of fun which removed the tension from the “big task” they had on their shoulders. So we started building the trust among each other and losing the tension and get in a creative mode were mistakes were welcomed as just steps on the way. This is very important – to have this kind of atmosphere – like a laboratory – where peopleare free to experiment and have no fear of failure. So when we get this vibe – we made one step more – we started doing improvisations games. At first the task was simple – four people in different casual or extreme situations. And the actors start developing the situation through interaction between them. When we get used to that we moved to improvising just in pairs – where two actors were playing one character. What do you do with that? Do you mirror your partner or contradict him or develop what he is doing. A combination of all we found out is the best key. Then the pair started interacting with the other pair. And being improvisation this could be really messy, that is why the concentration and the partnership of the team get on another level. So the actors were feeling ready to start working on the play, but how was the director feeling.

Preparing the director

As a director before starting rehearsals on stage I did not know exactly how we were going to make it. A had lot of unknowns in my head but I was on laboratory mode so I was open for the process. I had the following for sure: the story, two actors playing one character, everything should have a strong visual expression especially scenes with sounds in it. While casting the actors I have that in mind – both hearing actors were around fifty years old and both deaf actors were around thirty. So I used this as a starting point – the division in the character between the younger and the mature version. How each of the versions will react and how they will get along.


The most important thing and advice I can give for someone starting similar kind of process I would say – patience, patience, patience. Things are done slowly, but at the end are done. Mixing two languages, mixing two worlds, finding their best crossing points takes time. It is a path of discovery, a path of fails and victories. Here I will lay out some of the challenges:

Keeping the tempo – it is hard for two actors to have the same emotional and reactional speed, even saying/signing the same lines at the same time. Here we put a lot of effort, in order the dialogue to keep going everyone should be on the same page. Again we needed to edit some of the text or signs in order to keep the flow. Sometimes we deliberately were seeking for different tempo in the pair – but that was on a special moment when we wanted to emphasise something important. When we had some very emotional moments it was hard to synchronize the actors as robots, so we approach the specific situation depending on the scene.

Two actors – one character –this is very creative task. As I said before the best way for us was to combine – mirroring, developing and contradicting. But also on different scale there are communicating within the pair and communicating with the other as pair or as different parts of oneself. For example in our version of the play the woman character is alone on stage and have a big inner conflict – so each actress takes a side – the young deaf actress wants to love the male character and the mature hearing actress wants to hate him and kill him and the difficult part was that they have to have the same text. So we used just one phrase that was repeated several times and the conflict was made in more visual and physical manner.

Miseen scene! First thing is that deaf actors have to sign in such a way that can be visible to the audience, which means no profiles, no backs. Another thing is that while signing deaf actors could not do many other things with their hands – moving props on stage or other physical actions. They can with pausing the text while the action and then continue with the text. So having that in mind we tried to use all the stage and have different variations of interacting – deaf with deaf, hearing with hearing, hearing with deaf.

Balance! The idea is all the actors to be equal on stage no one to be leading or supporting. So each of the four actors through the play had their special moment of spotlight as individual and as a pair.

Style of acting –the deaf actors being more physically expressive while signing I had to tune down the hearing actors from this part an focus with them more on the speech and how they deliver the action through this medium. Again it was finding the balance in the team.

How one director watches two simultaneous actions! Many things were happening on the stage at the same time and it was hard to grasp at once. So my approach was to focus on one thing and examine it carefully while the whole action was taking place. For example just focus on deaf actors or hearing actors or in the pair and then change the focus. Again it was step by step approach.


Our premier was in Sofia and I thought that the deaf community will be very present because it is very rear to have theatre for deaf in Bulgaria, but that was not the case. The audience was like 20% deaf and 80% hearing. On the contrary in our tour in 3 cities in the country it was like 90% deaf and 10% hearing and our final performance again in Sofia we managed to have the 50/50 balance. For the people this was something completely new that is why at the beginning we had resistance from each of the communities – it just took some time while the word was spread that this new thing is good. For some deaf people in the country this was first theatre experience ever and this was very valuable for our team. On the discussions after the performances the main massage of the audience was we want more theatre like this. So in a way we created hunger for bilingual performances which responsibility we want to share with all the theatre makers in Bulgaria.