Kids find their muse at theater for the deaf

Hands communicate wildly as actors rush in and out of scenes, their facial and body expressions bringing characters to life without anyone uttering a word.

This is a performance by those who cannot hear, cannot speak, but can animate a theatrical production. In the audience, other actors vocalize the lines of the play so those who are able to hear can follow along.

Twice a year, CenterLight Theatre (part of the International Center on Deafness and the Arts in Northbrook) hosts productions performed by deaf children. The theater just celebrated its summer performance this month; its next show is set for November.

Programs incorporating music and theater are important to deaf children and adults because it offers them an outlet for personal expression, says Patricia Scherer, founder and director of ICODA. Preliminary research shows that access to such programs can spur kids in particular to advance in education and careers, she says.

Scherer founded ICODA in 1973 with about 10 students. Since then, more than 20,000 people of all ages have received services from the many facets of the organization, including CenterLight Theatre, Traveling Hands Troupe, Story in Sign, Teacher Training Program, ICODA Dance, Museum on Deafness, Early Intervention and International Creative Arts Camp.

Scherer is raising funds to buy a building to renovate into a facility fully equipped for the deaf. Plans call for a 500-seat theater, a treatment and intervention lab dedicated to education about the deaf and possible technological aids and helping deaf children with behavioral conditions. It will also have training centers with distance learning capabilities for teachers and students.

For more information about ICODA, the upcoming production planned for November or to help ICODA raise funding, visit

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