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Armagh woman ‘Expecting’ incredible reception to inclusive NI production in Washington

The production was also developed in collaboration with Paula, who is herself Deaf and features a mixture of d/Deaf and hearing artists.

Northern Ireland based c21 Theatre Company is getting ready to take its critically acclaimed production ‘Expecting’ to Washington D.C. this May – with Armagh woman Paula Clarke taking on a leading role.

The tour will include a U.S. premiere at The Keegan Theatre (May 16-25), along with short performances, workshops and discussions with Gallaudet University, the global leader in education for d/Deaf and hard of hearing students.

Directed by Stephen Kelly and written by Belfast playwright Charis McRoberts, ‘Expecting’ explores experiences unique to d/Deaf and hearing couples and contains a series of interweaving monologues and duologues in both English and sign language.

The production was also developed in collaboration with Paula, who is herself Deaf and features a mixture of d/Deaf and hearing artists.

Shauna (Paula Clarke) and Robbie (Eoghan Lamb) are expecting… different things.

Shauna expects motherhood won’t be easy. Robbie can’t wait to be a dad. Then she arrives. Encountering financial difficulties alongside the arrival of baby Aisling and the barriers Shauna faces, Robbie spirals. Can Shauna and Robbie adjust their expectations and find a way back to one another?

With Shauna and Robbie plunged into parenthood, will they sink or swim?

‘Expecting’ arrives in Washington, D.C. after making its world premiere in Belfast last May at The MAC Belfast and presenting to critical acclaim at the 2023 Edinburgh Deaf Festival, a
newly established arm of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The tour is culmination of several years of planning with The Keegan Theatre, after numerous delays and rescheduling due to the pandemic. In preparation for American audiences, the cast also had to translate their BSL performance into ASL.

As part of their tour to Washington D.C., c21 Theatre Company is collaborating with Gallaudet University’s theatre and dance department, one of the foremost programs in the country for deaf and hard of hearing students interested in the performing arts.

The collaboration aims to engage Gallaudet students with the play as well as build a creative partnership between c21 Theatre Company and Gallaudet University.

‘Expecting’ U.S. tour is supported by Culture Ireland, Department for Communities (Sign Language Partnership Group) and Doyle Shipping Group Belfast.

Director of Expecting and Creative Director c21 Theatre Company, Stephen Kelly said: “We have been on an incredible journey with this play ever since the world premiere in Belfast and our successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and now we are very happy to be forming this very positive relationship with The Keegan Theatre Washington D.C.

“Also, working with Gallaudet University will give us a unique opportunity to develop relationships with high profile partners on an international stage. It is essential to keep accessibility within the arts at the forefront of what we do, and we continue to strive to improve access and break down barriers together. Interacting with the d/Deaf community has been an integral part of this journey and long may it last.”

Paula Clarke, Stephen Kelly and Eoghan Lamb

Paula, Deaf actor/deaf actor and collaborator, added: “This trip to Washington D.C. is such an important one. For d/Deaf artists and performers, it can be difficult to break through into mainstream arts, as our language and culture are different. With my casting in the role of Shauna in ‘Expecting’, c21 ensures that we not only showcase our wonderful language, culture, and stories but also how integrated theatre can be, so that it welcomes and includes everyone.

“This tour sends a message to the d/Deaf community to aim high, that they too can achieve their dreams. It’s also a way of showing the arts world the unique perspective and value that deaf artists can bring to any production. I think the collaboration between The Keegan, Gallaudet University and c21 is an incredible opportunity for me as an artist and to shine a light on this incredible show in another part of the world.”

Follow c21 Theatre Company’s and their U.S. journey on and on social media Facebook @c21TheatreCompany and Instagram @c21theatre.

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