Chris DeSouza lives in Fremont, California. He works at California School for the Deaf, where he is a Resident Counselor. He was born hearing and he became Deaf at a very young age. Chris is the only Deaf person in his big Portuguese family. When he's not working, he likes going on hikes, enjoying the time with his dogs, and always looking forward for the next opportunity. He has hopes and dreams of being in Television and, hopefully one day, a feature film on the silver screen.
1. What does it mean to you to be Deaf?
My being Deaf means a second chance at life! My grandfather died saving me in a freak car accident, and after almost loosing my life too, I was gifted a second chance. Plus the surprise bonus of becoming Deaf. Now I can do anything.
2. When and how did you first gain access to ASL?
When I became Deaf at a young age. My parents wanted the best for me, especially my mother. She choose to learn sign language for me. My immediate family did, too. I was placed in a mainstreamed school in Northern California, where I learned SEE (Sign Exact English). Speech Therapy was a big part of my growing up. When I learned that we are going on a long field trip to a Deaf school to watch a play, I was thrilled. When I got there, I remember seeing Shoshanna Stern playing as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. I was in love! I begged my mother to send me to California School for the Deaf, Fremont, just so I could be on stage.
3. At school, did you ever experience the feeling of being different?
The first few years at CSDF, I was different because I didn’t sign like everybody else. I was using Sign Exact English. I was bullied. I wanted to quit. I remember typing real fast to my mother on the TTY, telling her to pick me up and take me home. My mother said no. I got so upset and I started banging on the TTY. As time went, eventually, I learned to adapt. I abandoned SEE for ASL and things got really better. I felt like I belonged there. Definitely better that that mainstreamed school because I was able to chat with everybody. Teachers, Staff, and Peers all shared the same language and that helped me with my identity as a Deaf person. I don’t know what kind of person I’d be if I continued staying in mainstreamed schools with Deaf Programs.
4. What aspects do you appreciate, or dislike, of deaf culture?
There are so many beautiful aspects about Deaf Culture. The Deaf community supports me being able to work in an environment where ASL is 100% accessible. It feels so natural and comfortable that sometimes forget I have to advocate for my rights when I interact with the hearing world. I've received ignorant comments or been treated as if I were "Deaf and Dumb". That’s tiring. Well, I pick my battles.
5. How would you describe your experience at Gallaudet University?
The best thing about College was performing! I performed with Jonathan Kovac’s Rathskellar. We traveled and performed around the world at Deaf Festivals. I was involved with some theater at the University. I was also involved with Big River, the Musical with Deaf West Theater. After two years at Gallaudet, I went to National Theater for the Deaf and performed with them for a year in Connecticut.
6. Is ASL language so different today?
Yeah. It’s more natural. It’s nice to have 100% of the access.
7. Has ASL evolved into Signed English in recent times?
It’s evolved a lot through time. ASL is great, but I feel that English is important, also because when being out in the hearing world, English is prime. It’s important. Sometimes when I am using an interpreter, I feel the need to ASL exactly in the English format to make sure the interpreter says what I say just so he/she doesn’t say something other than what I’m trying to say, especially in important meetings. I want to be able to make sure the interpreter is relaying my words, my voice, my thoughts.
8. Is there an event or anecdote of your life that you would like to share with us?
If you’re truly passionate in something, build up on it. Do what you can the best you can. Invest in yourself.
9. How was your passion for the performing arts, i.e. dance, music and theatre, born?
I grew up watching Jim Carrey on TV and Movies. I think he basically sparked the dream of wanting to be in movies and TV. The acting world is a hard one. It’s very competitive, but you win some opportunities and you lose some. I think it’s just important to keep going. If you’re still auditioning for stuff and you can’t seem to get where you want to be, then make it happen within your control. Invest in yourself.
10. Have you ever had the opportunity to work with hearing actors?
Plenty times. Each time it’s the same, to be honest. Wow, you’re Deaf. You’re so talented! Often, they’re afraid to approach me, but later they start to warm up and it’s always the same: they want to know the bad signs! I think once they’re enjoying the bad signs, they would start to put more effort into trying to sign to me. Each and every production is different, but I think in the end, they learn something and their perspective of a Deaf person changes for the better.
11. What about the new film project called “In the Forest of Nisene Marks”?
I was informed about this audition through a friend. I auditioned and they liked me immediately. As soon as I accepted the role, I found out that they’re having my “Deaf wife” played by a hearing person. I didn’t feel right about that, but I didn’t want to blow my chances of losing this role. I tried my best to educate them, showed them articles, this and that. Eventually, I think they realized that it’s best to be as authentic as possible and from there, we got Amber Zion on board to play my wife. This is a story about a Coda child growing up with Deaf parents who are performers and they do their best supporting their daughter.... until one tragic day.
12. What do you think are the advantages of having a Deaf actor?
I think my advantage is that I can speak a little bit. I hate to say this, but when I speak the whole vibe in the room changes. OH! Often they would be like: You’re Deaf, but you can speak well! WOW! Sometimes it’s an advantage, I think. I spoke some lines in some of my films like "Thin Lines" by Shaan Courture. My ability to speak some gives me the chance to bring authenticity to a specific role such as Aaron Smithson’s "Before Dark".
13. What do you do at California School of the Deaf?
I work as a Resident Counselor. Dorm counselor. I work with Middle School aged students.
14. Are there, in your opinion, common aspects in both deaf and LGBTQ communities?
I believe that we fight the same battle and that is to be accepted as we are.
15. What could your motto be?
If it doesn’t work, find a way to make it work.
In questo articolo si parla di cultura, teatro, cinema, televisione, quasimodo, asl, inglese, sordità, attore, regista, collaborazione, portogallo, california, impegno, segni, investimento, colleghi, palco, articolo, coda, lingua dei segni, Michele Peretti, cultura sorda, udenti, schermo, comunità sorda, espressioni, Fremont
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