Zeder, Suzan. The Taste of Sunrise: Tuc’s Story. 1996. 50 pp. * An astonishing finale to this remarkable anthology, the play tells the story of Tuc, a deaf man Zeder first introduced to audiences in her earlier play, Mother Hicks. Zeder has effectively merged the deaf and hearing world to tell this story of love, loss, pain, and hope. We are introduced to Tuc Tucker, the only son of a single farmer, as he stands and signs “wind,” “water,” and “bird.” Then, with a sudden clap of thunder, we are transported back to see how Tuc lost his hearing--in a fight against scarlet fever that nearly took his life. Nell Hicks--a midwife whose own baby daughter also dies, and who becomes the subject of vicious gossip in the town--saves him. From here, Zeder draws a vibrant picture of Tuc’s life with his father, Jonas. They speak with their souls, having no need for aural or visual communication. Word of Tuc’s disability spreads, and soon a representative comes to convince Jonas to send Tuc to the Central Institute for the Deaf. Promises of Tuc learning to understand Jonas’ words and learning to speak on his own are tempting, and Jonas finally succumbs. Signing is not allowed at the school, but Maizie--a young hearing girl raised by deaf parents--and other deaf students defy the rule by signing in private and teaching Tuc to sign. When Tuc and his father are reunited, Tuc is eager to share his new ability to communicate. Unfortunately, the bond they once shared has broken and they are unable to connect. Saddened, Tuc focuses on school and goes home less and less often, until is father is stricken with tuberculosis. He arrives home in time to see his father taken to the hospital and return home in a wooden box. Jonas had arranged for Nell to send Tuc back to school and to keep the best piece of the land so that Tuc could have it when he was ready to farm. Tuc, however, is too grief-stricken to return to school and he stays with Nell. After being stung numerous times by a colony of bees, some hunters take Tuc to a hospital, where he runs into a very pregnant Maizie. Tuc and Maizie escape together and head for Tuc’s home. Maizie delivers a healthy baby girl and struggles with the decision whether to keep the child and stay with Nell and Tuc--raising the girl in the half-deaf, half-hearing world in which she has struggled her entire life--or leave the child with a family in town. Deciding to leave the baby with a local couple, she asks Tuc and Nell to keep an eye on her. Eventually, Nell asks Tuc to teach her sign, and in a beautiful final scene, the actor who played Jonas returns to participate in Nell’s sign education and to reconnect with Tuc. This piece effectively explores the pain of a deaf child struggling to find his place in a hearing world. It is a beautiful expression of life and a hopeful portrait of the human condition. Taste of Sunrise has a cast of twenty plus characters to be played by an ensemble of nine actors. Zeder specifies that two roles should be played by deaf actors: Tuc and Roscoe, a deaf student at the state school. Under no circumstances should a hearing actor be cast as Tuc. This play requires a close association with the deaf community, and every cast member should be able to sign because the entire play is signed as well as spoken. The set is an open space with several chairs and a few props that can be manipulated to represent different locales. From: Frockt, Deborah Lynn. Seattle Childrenâs Theatre: Six Plays for Young Actors, Volume II. Smith & Kraus, 2000. ISBN 1-57525-158-2. $16.95. 295 pp. Reviewed by Allison G. Belnap
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