Cincinnati State hosts premier of groundbreaking presentation highlighting the power of the deaf community

A new presentation by local dance company Pones, taking place at Cincinnati State on February 22, 23, and 24, 2024, will bring to life an award-winning collection of poems by combining spoken word, dance, and “shadow interpretation,” an innovative form of delivering American Sign Language, where interpreters are part of the action onstage.

The performance, titled Deaf Republic, is a visual presentation of a collection of poems written by Ilya Kaminsky, a Ukrainian-American poet. The poems describe the military occupation of the fictional village of Vasenka, where villagers use Deafness and a novel sign language to subvert the military authorities.

Deaf Republic shows that Deafness is a source of strength, a long-held tenet of Deaf Culture. This visual presentation will demonstrate that strength to all audience members, Deaf and hearing alike.

Performances will be held in the ATLC Auditorium (ATLC 211) on these days and times:

  • Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 – 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, tickets for Deaf Republic are free, but space is limited, so reservations are required. Reservations can be made online at

According to Pones, the presentation is suitable for high school students and adults. It contains adult language and situations, including references to sex and sex work, warfare, military occupation, violence, and death.

Cincinnati State collaboration includes planning, performances, & more

Cincinnati State Provost Robbin Hoopes said Deaf Republic is “the first-ever adaptation of Kaminsky’s poems into a visual presentation.” He noted that work on the presentation has been underway at Cincinnati State “five days a week, for more than a month.”

Ruby Downie, a long-time adjunct faculty member in the College’s Interpreter Training Program (ITP) is serving as Deaf script consultant, and College interpreter Kristen Bowen will be one of the shadow interpreters on stage for the performance. 

Provost Hoopes said shadow interpreting is a unique performance style that typically is limited to cities that have a large Deaf community. Deaf Republic will be one of the first shadow interpreted works presented in the Greater Cincinnati region.

In shadow interpretation, sign language interpreters are on stage, in costume, and are integrated seamlessly with the cast to deliver dialogue next to the speaking character, so action and speech are connected.

Dawn Caudill, Program Chair for Cincinnati State’s Interpreter Training Program, said working on the presentation has been “a great collaboration with the community.”

“I started talking over a year ago to one of our ITP students, Gina Kleesattel–the performance director–about this wonderful visual production,” Caudill said.

“Using the shadow interpreting process lessens the frustrations that Deaf people often experience while watching an interpreted theatrical production,” she added.

Caudill continued, “This performance is a thank you to our Deaf community for all the support they have provided to Cincinnati State’s ITP program for more than 25 years. It’s also an amazing opportunity for our students to be involved and to observe a unique interpreting format that is not used often, because of the time and commitment needed to perform it well.”

“We are excited to have ITP faculty, alumni, and current students involved in the presentation,” Caudill said. “We also want to thank Provost Hoopes for his support in making the production possible.”

“With all of the rehearsals and multiple performances, the support of Christine Barrow and the Facilities Department also has been instrumental,” Provost Hoopes added.

The presentation of Deaf Republic is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the David C. Herriman Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation, and the Cincinnati State Foundation.