The play “Tribes” opens at Carbondale’s Thunder River Theatre Company Thursday.  The main character is a deaf man, finding his identity in a family of hearing people.

Corey Simpson is the executive artistic director of Thunder River Theater and the director of “Tribes.” While researching the play, he picked up his phone to call the artistic director of a deaf theatre in Denver.  

“I set my phone down, and I almost immediately realized I had no idea how I would have a phone call with somebody who’s deaf,” he said.

That was the beginning of the learning curve for Simpson and the rest of the company. They took crash courses in American Sign Language (ASL) sat down with members of the local deaf community and brought deaf actor Michelle Schaeffer on board, along with two ASL interpreters.

Those interpreters will take center stage in the final two performances later this month. Often, they’re placed on the sides, forcing deaf audience members to choose between watching them or the action onstage.

“We talked with the folks that are part of our production that are deaf and said, ‘Where would you place them to have the best experience?’  And so that’s where they’re going to be,” he said.

A preview of “Tribes” takes place Thursday.  The show’s opening is Friday night.

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