Trix Bruce shows ASL community some signing “tricks”

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – American Sign Language students and professors, as well as members of the Deaf community gathered on Wednesday, April 11 as Patricia “Trix” Bruce led two workshops on ASL storytelling.

Bruce describes herself as a “storyteller, a poet, an actress and a one deaf-woman show.” While she’s been deaf since she was six months old, Bruce has lived an extraordinary life as an actress in the performing arts and now travels the country leading the same workshops she led here at Niagara University. Through her out-of-the-box gesturing and use of classifiers, a common technique used in ASL, Bruce was able to tell stories in such a way that people of all signing levels.

Bruce held two workshops in the Castellani Art Museum. The first focused on tips for signing stories to children, and the latter was about Bruce’s journey through life as a Deaf woman and tips on storytelling for both the hearing and deaf.

Throughout her second workshop, Bruce held an open discussion about her techniques that she uses for her storytelling, even calling up volunteers for several topics. These topics included sharing Deaf folktales, A to Z storytelling, personification and noting different ASL dialects. For example, she brought all of the deaf audience members to the front to demonstrate how they sign the word “banana” to show that even in the local community signs can vary from person to person.

“This event served to support our mission: develop social sign skills and build a knowledge base of Deaf experience,” said ASL department chairperson, Nanette Harmon. “Our goal is to partner with the Deaf community for equal communication access.”

The American Sign Language department is fairly new to NU, and has just recently began offering an ASL and Deaf studies minor. In addition to their academic program, the ASL department also runs the Everything ASL club for those who don’t have the flexibility to pursue a minor or just want to continue to engage in Deaf culture.


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