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'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' onstage in Pleasanton

Stage 1 Theatre highlights accessibility, creativity in bilingual ASL production

The Firehouse Arts Center in Pleasanton will be hosting a bilingual production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" this month.

"I hope, first and foremost, that the audience walks out entertained and filled with joy," director Patricia Pitpitan told Livermore Vine. "This show is such a good time, and the story is sweet and relatable. Secondly, I hope it opens minds about what theater can accomplish when we allow it to be told with different voices. And finally, I hope you are blown away by the talent in this cast."

The production will be put on by the nonprofit performing arts group, Stage 1 Theatre. Through the bilingual show, the theater group will feature actors who are deaf, HOH (hard of hearing), CODA (child of deaf adult) and hearing. Actors will be able to perform in both American Sign Language and spoken English.

"My goal is that the audience becomes so immersed in the storytelling that they are no longer thinking about the fact that this is a bilingual production, and rather that they are just in for a fun ride," Pitpitan said.

From left: Actors Ashley Castellon, Noelle Wilder and Dane Lentz rehearse for the upcoming Stage 1 Theatre bilingual ASL production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" that opens in the Firehouse Arts Center on Aug. 13. Photo by Gino Lucas

Pitpitan felt inspired after seeing a production of "Big River" performed by the Deaf West Theatre several years ago. At the show she witnessed for the first time a fully integrated presentation with ASL and spoken English. "I saw that including Deaf actors in a musical was not only possible, but it actually made for spectacular theater," Pitpitan said.

Pitpitan explains finding the specific viewpoint of her show, she felt her vision grow stronger as the production process went on. "I was compelled to direct this show," she said. "It just made sense to me as the ideal vehicle to present a story in both ASL and spoken English."

Stage 1 Theatre's board president and show producer Lorraine VanRod emphasized the pride the group feels in being able to have a production like this.

"Any bilingual show means you've exponentially expanded your audience. Reaching new patrons is exciting and also essential to maintain the arts," VanRod said. "Especially (for) those who identify as deaf, hard of hearing, or a child of deaf adults."

A two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic allowed the group to consider what kind of theater they wanted to showcase to the community, according to VanRod. During that time, they explored what representation meant to them as a whole.

Cast members of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in rehearsal. Photo courtesy Stage 1 Theatre

"I hope our production inspires other arts organizations to provide opportunities for the Deaf, HOH, CODA and ASL community," VanRod said. "I can't wait for these actors to get roles in other shows. I will be the first to buy a ticket"

VanRod and Pitpitan both share a passion for accessible performing arts.

"One of the things that I love about theater is that it is a place where people come together. We need this now more than ever," VanRod said.

Pitpitan added, "Sometimes I just sit back and watch the actors work in ASL and I am so moved by the beauty of their own choreography."

"In theater, if you give different people the space to bring out the creativity that lives within them, it is one of the most positively affirming experiences and there's nothing quite like it," she said.

Stage 1 Theatre production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- the musical retelling of the biblical story of Joseph, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber -- with debut with a preview show next Friday (Aug. 12) followed by opening night on Aug. 13 at 8 p.m.

Performances continue on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 28 at the Firehouse Arts Center in downtown Pleasanton. For tickets and more information, visit