Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Performers' sense of pride: The deaf sing, act in Brooklyn open mic show

Performers' sense of pride: The deaf sing, act in Brooklyn open mic show

It's where deaf performers go to be heard.

An open mic night for the hearing-impaired in Bay Ridge has been drawing standing-room-only crowds that come to see deaf comedians and poets, plus musicians who sing with sign interpreters.

"It's a place for our community to come together," said event co-host Steve Martinez, 31, an amateur comic from Jackson Heights who has been deaf since birth. "It feels good to come out and see deaf entertainers."

Martinez, a photographer, produces the monthly Deaf Appreciation Night at Circles Canteena on Fifth Ave., with sign language interpreter Mandie Muscato, 26.

Their free, open forum for deaf performers is the only one in the city, said Muscato, of Bensonhurst.

"Deaf people don't have a lot of opportunities to socialize, and something like an open mic is especially rare," said Muscato. "Maybe that's why we've had a strong following since the beginning."

Muscato held the first Deaf Appreciation Night last July. She got the idea for the event when deaf friends began showing up to watch her sing Lady Gaga tunes while signing the lyrics at other open mics.

She and Martinez publicize the event through word of mouth and Facebook - and Canteena's colorful, 50-seat dining room is filled to capacity at the once-a-month event.

Deaf people from around the city came to the event last month with their friends and family. Four deaf stand-up comics made jokes in sign language, while Muscato interpreted their acts verbally for those who didn't sign.

Andy Oh, a deaf Web master from Fort Lee, N.J., told several jokes about his miscommunications with hearing people.

"I once had a girlfriend who could hear, and it was funny when I went out with her," he said. "We'd be on a date and I'd ask for the ketchup, and she'd think I was calling her names!"

In between comics, musicians sang and played guitar and piano, while Muscato and other interpreters signed the lyrics to their songs.

Oh, 28, said he and the other deaf performers are grateful for the chance to perform for their peers. "I wish there were more events like this," he said.

The next Deaf Appreciation Night is scheduled for March 27 at Circles Canteena. Call (718) 745-9160 to reserve a seat.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2010/03/02/2010-03-02_performers_sense_of_pride_the_deaf_star_in_open_show.html#ixzz0h4e3Lh3P