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February 25, 2013

New Castle man directs Hubbard High musical in which characters perform sign language

NEW CASTLE — At a young age, Rich Magazzine had good sense.

The Pulaski man followed his passion to help those with hearing loss, and all signs pointed him in the right direction.

Magazzine’s outreach has resulted in the first-of-its-kind presentation in this area — a musical, “Aladdin Junior” — for both a deaf and hearing audience at Hubbard High School. Call it a double dose of entertainment.

Eight years ago, he was hired by the district to teach American sign language as a foreign language. Magazzine said not many schools in eastern Ohio or western Pennsylvania have these classes in their curriculum.

A waiting list for the sign language courses is indicative of its popularity.

Currently, about 120 students are enrolled in ASL one, two and three, and mostly juniors and seniors from those classes are involved in the production.

It’s the first time for this time of presentation, with the costumed characters signing while simultaneously, voice-overs will be provided for the hearing.

“There are so few things for the deaf community,” Magazzine said. “And this is Disney family entertainment for those with and without hearing.”

His journey began when he was a junior at Boardman High School. Magazzine, 42, who is not hearing impaired, learned sign language from a pastor who was deaf. He then lived with an entire family in Cincinnati and during that time, traveled with a deaf choir. He became acutely aware  of the deaf community during the deaf pride movement that began with Gallaudet University in 1989.

After receiving his associate’s degree from Allegheny Community College, he became an interpreter and worked in that role with the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV. He went on to receive his teaching degree from Slippery Rock University after student teaching at Wilmington High School.

He later learned that Hubbard searched for two years to find the right candidate to teach the sign language courses.

The school found it in Magazzine who was issued a dual certificate to teach sign language and social studies.

And he discovered his niche.

“Signing is a different language than others,” he said. “You can literally run into someone and use it.”

He describes the play as a scaled-down version of the original “Aladdin” but the music, costumes and dialogues is a full complement.

“All the actors on stage will sign and people in the stage area will voice. It’s the reverse of protocol.”

Magazzine continues to promote awareness.

“We’re doing something new for the community,” he said. “I’m hoping to provide a piece of deaf culture for the hearing and enjoyment for deaf people — an east meets west sort of thing. Ideally, it will open up doors for more of this.”

It’s a good sign.


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