Last Thursday, Hoyt Auditorium was host to Alan “Abababa” Abarbanell, who spoke to an audience of roughly 300, consisting of both deaf and hearing people. The nearly sold-out event was sponsored by the American Sign Language Club on campus.
“We always try to get one large event organized every year and this time we wanted to invite someone who we knew had already been well received in the Rochester community,” President of ASL Club and senior Lydia Dewey said. “We chose ‘Abababa’ to come because we knew he has become somewhat of a celebrity in the Deaf Community and specifically in the city of Rochester.”
Abarbanell had performed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a part of the Rochester Institute of Technology campus, last fall and the performance was a huge success. Dewey noted that many of the Executive members of ASL Club attended the performance and were very impressed by Abarbanell. Events Coordinator for the ASL Club Anna Crisologo immediately began the process of getting in touch with Abarbanell to come perform at UR.
As expected, his performance at UR was a hit. The show began officially at 7:30 p.m., but according to Vice President of the ASL Club and junior Elise Coco, people started filing in as early as 6:45 p.m.
“We were shocked at how early these large groups of people were showing up,” Coco said. “Alan started performing and telling stories about growing up with deaf parents. He used ‘simcom’ or simultaneous communication – signing and speaking at the same time. There was a ten-minute intermission and the show ended around 10 p.m.”
Abarbanell “spoke” about growing up with deaf parents in the Deaf Community; he is what is referred to as a CODA, or a child of deaf adults. He incorporated humor into his performance by impersonating his parents as well as their deaf friends, all of whom had a great effect on him. On a more sentimental note, Abarbanell spoke about the death of his parents and how he felt he had lost his connection with the deaf community. He also detailed his experience as an ASL interpreter many years ago when there were not as stringent rules as to who could be an interpreter.
“His storytelling style is very active and engaging, using up the whole stage as he runs back and forth at times and other times being very still, perched on a stool?He [had] the audience laughing uncontrollably one minute and the next minute struggling to hold back tears,” Dewey said.
Overall, Abarbanell appealed to a diverse audience of both hearing and deaf people, as well as people who have never seen his show. Dewey noted that there were ASL students present from Monroe Community College, SUNY Geneseo and the Rochester Institute of Technology, showing that the deaf community is prevalent in the Rochester area.
“We’ve gotten e-mails from people who were ecstatic because for one of the first times, their whole family, a deaf and hearing mixed family, could enjoy an evening together without the stress of following an interpreter or the children interpreting for the parents,” Coco said.
Halusic is a member of the class of 2010.