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University to honor deaf city man

April 2, 2007

MIDDLETOWN, CT – Gilbert C. Eastman was an accomplished writer, actor and director for over five decades. The fact that he was also deaf did not slow him down.
“He was amazing, just amazing,” said Susan Allison, his niece.
In December, the Middletown native died.
Now, four months later, Gallaudet University, perhaps the most famous university for the deaf in the country, is honoring Mr. Eastman by naming one of its campus theaters after him.
Gallaudet, which is located in Washington, D.C., was founded in 1856. The school is a world leader in liberal education and career development for the deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduates.
The university is extending the honor by having the theatre arts department stage Eastman’s first play, “Sign Me Alice.”
“Sign Me Alice” was a about a deaf girl living in the hearing world. It was first presented in April 1973.
“The heroine does not ask for pity but for the right to the deaf’s choice: sign language or any of the artificial languages that use signs to represent English,” according to Mr. Eastman’s preface.
Mr. Eastman was born and raised in Middletown.
According to Allison, he struggled with being deaf his whole life.
“He has had a lot of obstacles to overcome,” she said. “He struggled to overcome those obstacles, but he was not detoured by doubters and he realized his great gifts.”
Allison said Mr. Eastman was “always laughing” and “was always playing practical jokes and pranks on people.”
“He was a very communicative person,” Allison said. She added he was a great dancer, and very appreciative of all the arts.
Mr. Eastman led a busy life. He also wore many hats and did everything from writing to directing to acting. He was involved with more than 50 plays in one capacity or another.
“He was in tune with his artistic abilities,” Allison said. “He was unstoppable.”
One of Mr. Eastman’s greatest accomplishments was in helping to found the National Theatre for the Deaf in 1967.
He also won an Emmy in 1993 for his television show “Deaf Mosaic.” Gallaudet will be showing several episodes of the show and other videos with Mr. Eastman. He also wrote six books.
Mr. Eastman graduated from the American School for the Deaf, located in West Hartford, in 1952. He then went to Gallaudet and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1957. He earned a master’s degree in drama from Catholic University.
He received an honorary doctorate degree from Gallaudet in 2002, and was inducted into the American School for the Deaf Hall of Fame in 2006.
Besides his artistic accomplishments, Mr. Eastman worked in the deaf culture and advocated for rights for the deaf. He was a supporter of deaf children not wearing hearing aids, because he felt that being deaf allowed the other senses to be heightened, Allison explained.
He is survived by his wife, June, who is also deaf, and by his two daughters, Alison and Ingrid. His niece said the family was “very close.”
Allison said other artists “could learn one thing” from Mr. Eastman: persistence, persistence, persistence.
On Friday, there will be a memorial service and ceremony to name the theater at the university. A reception will follow.
Tickets for performances of “Sign Me Alice” are $10 for adults and $8 for students. For more information, call (202) 651-5500 for voice or (202) 651-5502 for TTY. The play will run from Thursday through April 14.
To contact Joseph Wenzel IV, call him at (860) 347-3331, Ext. 222, or e-mail him at jwenzel@middletownpress.com.

©The Middletown Press 2007

  1. Anonymous
    April 2, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Deafread did not post this article?

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