Storytelling is one of the oldest artforms. According to Reporter Magazine, the act of telling a story began with cave drawings and other visual mediums, then it branched out into oral traditions. Today, we tell stories in so many different ways. We tell them through writing, filmmaking, painting, speaking, singing, and even through the use of American Sign Language.
In an article on storytelling in ASL, handspeak.com states that signed storytelling is a tradition that has existed for many years. Because of the cinematic nature of sign language, an ASL storyteller is able to provide imaginative narrative using space, expressions, and movement. ASL storytelling also offers a number of benefits. It can help with language development, improve listening and verbal communication skills, help to develop thinking and problem-solving skills, stimulate imagination and creativity, lead to relaxation and bonding, and more.
When it comes to ASL, there have been many exceptional storytellers throughout history. As a way to celebrate storytelling through sign language, we decided to put together a list of some great ASL storytellers to check out:
Tanya Wyatt-Dennis is a pioneer in the ASL community. According to startasl.com she was the “first black Deaf hospice medical social worker.” She achieved a Master of Social Work degree from Wayne State University and became the first black Deaf school social worker for Detroit Public Schools. Learn more about Tanya here.
A Deaf author, Kathleen Brockway gives presentations on the preservation of Deaf culture and history. She also plays an important role in the NAD Deaf Culture & History Section. Learn more about Kathleen here.
Adrean Clark is a graduate of Gallaudet University and a Deaf cartoonist and designer. She collaborated with her DeafBlind husband John Lee Clark to create The Tactile Mind Press in 2001, where she holds the position of Creative Director. Learn more about Adrean here.
Trix Bruce is a Deaf poet and actress whose work draws on her own personal life experiences. She has taught many workshops on ASL storytelling and has been performing since 1970. She has even performed at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Learn more about Trix and check out her videos here. Daniel Durant
Daniel Durant is a young Deaf actor who has found some great success in recent years. He has worked on Broadway as Moritz in “Spring Awakening,” and he is passionate about connecting with others through ASL videos on YouTube. Learn more about Daniel here.
Linda Bove is a Deaf actress who is known as a recurring character on Sesame Street. She is a graduate of Gallaudet University and has been involved with the National Theatre of the Deaf. On Sesame Street, Linda played a librarian with the same name. She is the only non-hearing performer to have been on the series. Learn more about Linda here.
Every culture has their own great storytellers, and the ASL community is no exception. If you’re interested in checking out some of the best storytellers ASL has to offer, the list above is a great starting point.