By Eunice Kim and Faith Oak
Faster than her words can be articulated, junior Vianney Quiroga Paez’s thoughts translate into swift hand gestures that relay her message to anyone who can understand her. Her signing, accompanied by animated facial expressions, gradually gains momentum as she gets caught up in her story. Through her own appreciation for the silent language, she offers the school what she sees as a recognition of the beauty of American Sign Language (ASL).
Paez joined the ASL 1 class in her freshman year, having been already fluent in both Spanish and English. She advanced so much in the language that today, as a junior in ASL 3, she uses it nearly unconsciously, in soundless harmony with her voice.
Recently, Paez took on the position of student director for this year’s ASL student show “Deaf-initely Grease,” which took place on February 10 in Highlander Hall. As a spin on the popular musical “Grease,” the plot follows the story of a young deaf girl named Sammy who struggles with bullying and self-acceptance, alongside other classic characters from the original production. The show was powerful, heartfelt, and embodied themes of love and acceptance.
“I am usually a really shy person, and I never thought I would be able to do something this big. But I am really happy because I love the class. Ever since I was a freshman, I aspired to be student director,” Paez said.
This year’s performance meant even more to the ASL class because it was the last annual show to be put on by ASL teacher Kelly Steen. Steen chose Paez as director due to her advanced understanding of the language and her unequaled work ethic.
“I knew she was the best one because, as Arnold H. Glasow said, ‘a good leader takes a little more than her or his share of the blame, a little less than her or his shared of the credit,’” Steen said.
Being the director did not come without its difficulties, though. Paez took on her position knowing that it would require a great deal of time and commitment, even with a full schedule of rigorous classes and multiple extracurricular responsibilities. Being the student director meant organizing and overseeing all of the preparations for the show, which included translating songs, managing the budget, and smoothing out kinks that arose in the process.
“I would say that one of the harder parts of preparing the show was just getting the whole class to work as a team. Starting the show, everyone was kind of separated into their own little cliques,” Paez said.
The transition to bonding as a class came gradually and ultimately fulfilled one of Paez’s biggest hopes for the project: that the ASL class would come together as a family. She made sure to recognize that the preparations for the show were truly a team effort, and that everyone had done an amazing job.
Another major goal for the show was to direct more attention onto smaller programs at school, especially because of the lack of widespread attention their shows garner compared to more well-known school activities. Paez stressed that she wanted to give a platform to students who do not have a voice, but deserve to display their talents and value. Although Paez is a hearing person, her teacher recognized that her respect and admiration for the deaf community made her the perfect candidate to represent the class as the show’s director.
Ultimately, despite any difficulties that had to be overcome, Paez was able to learn about herself from her experience as director, which will continue to shape the choices she makes in the future.
“It has been pretty stressful, but the best part of all of this is that it has really helped me to test my limits. In the future, I would like to become an ASL interpreter for the deaf, and this experience has given me a lot of confidence and ambition, because I can see now what I can do and strive to do even more,” Paez said.