Interview with James Caverly

Q: Most recently you directed and adapted “A Christmas Carol” — Could you tell us what that experience was like?

Doing a one-man show of A Christmas Carol is already intimidating enough but to do it in ASL presented a unique challenge. Charles Dickens’ writing is very stylized and his proses are very memorable so to translate the language, I hope that we did it justice. As I was adapting it, I added some “Deaf Culture” tidbits in the story that’re very relatable to our audience and having Hector Reynoso, the actor playing all the roles, add his humor and talent to the characters made the whole experience very fulfilling.

Q: Were there any unique challenges being in a virtual setting?

Oh, there were many challenges. On top of dealing with the technical aspects (video quality, storage, cataloging, and editing), we did the entire shoot in three weeks on top of everyone’s busy schedule. Because of COVID-19, I did all the directing from my residence while Hector had to do all the set up, costumes, lights, and makeup himself. In a way, he did most of the work while I made all the directing decisions.

Q: You’ve directed and acted in a variety of productions, both regionally and on Broadway, as well as in film and television. What attracts you to the projects you get involved with? Are there any favorites?

I find meaning in every project I’m involved with. When I directed “Every Brilliant Thing” for New York Deaf Theatre (the play deals a lot with depression and finding the wonderful things in life), I got a chance to really dive into those topics and be able to share this particular story to our audiences and remind them of our shared experiences. In a way, doing this show was therapeutic. And it is a wonderful play.

Q: What challenges have you faced as a Deaf actor and director?

Finding work is a challenge. Going to auditions and hoping that they can push past their own ignorance and assess my talent as an actor, not on my ability to hear or speak is an example. Constantly educating the masses about working with a Deaf director or actor is another. I don’t view my own Deafness as a setback–there’s no reason that others should think otherwise.

Q: What got you interested in the performing arts? 

The attention 🙂 Being a goofy kid growing up and manifesting that silliness into the stage is a wonderful feeling. As I get more training, the more I realize how powerful theatre can be as a tool for societal change and as a means for humans to form empathy.

Q: Any projects in particular that you are looking forward to in the future that you can tell us about?

A few! But because I’m superstitious and COVID-19 can still change things in an instant, I can’t reveal anything yet!

Q: Is there anything you want hearing people to know about Deaf performers or Deaf theatre?

Give us a try! You’ll be surprised at what we can offer. Our stories and talent are unmatched anywhere else.

Q: Has there been anything else on your mind the past several months that you’d like to share?

As the pandemic runs its course, I hope you remember that in times of despair, boredom, and anxiety, you turned to the Arts as an escape. We artists truly appreciate all the support you have given us and we will continue to be there to provide entertainment for you.

Stay connected @joeycaverly on Instagram and www.joeycaverly.com

James Caverly (he/him/his) was born and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan. He graduated with a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Gallaudet University in 2011. Soon after graduation, he joined National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) for two years: he directed The McWilliamses, and performed in several plays, including Journey of Identity (playing the character Laurent Clerc) and A Child’s Christmas in Wales (playing the character Dylan Thomas). Since then, he has directed several plays and performed both stage and screen. He directed William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in both American Sign Language and spoken English for Community College of Baltimore County Community Theatre. He has also performed the lead character, Billy, for three different productions of Nina Raine’s Tribes (SpeakEasy Stage Company, Studio Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre) and was nominated for the Helen Hayes Award (one of the country’s most prestigious cultural honors) for his Studio Theatre performances. In 2018, he was the understudy for the character Orin for the Studio 54 (Broadway) production of Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God. Most recently, he appeared in two episodes of NBC’s Chicago Med (Season 4): in the premiere episode (“Be My Better Half”) (9/27/2018) and the finale episode (“With a Brave Heart”) (5/22/2019). He also wrote a short play, “Civil Engagement,” that was accepted for a 2019 production in Deaf Spotlight’s Short Play Festival (Seattle, Washington). Caverly sees a problem with most portrayals of deaf people on stage and screen: “That they’re the problem, they’re the issue in the story that needs to be fixed, and frankly I’m just not feeling that that’s the lens that the world needs to see.” Pictured below is a staged reading of “Another Kind of Silence” at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

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