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Deaf man realizes childhood dream as professional theatre performer

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VICTORIA -

While growing up deaf, Chris Dodd was always trying to be heard.

“I was a little bit of a clown,” Chris tells us through a sign language interpreter. “I liked to get attention.”

Although he strived to be a star in elementary school, and started writing plays in high school, after studying theatre in university, Chris found there wasn’t much interest in hiring deaf performing artists.

“At the time I felt like I couldn’t continue with it,” Chris says.

But instead of giving up on his childhood dream, Chris committed to creating his own opportunities.

“It’s been a struggle to get to this point,” Chris says. “I’ve just had perseverance.”

The perseverance has paid off. Chris has written five plays, acted in more than a dozen productions, and is the founder of the national theatre festival Sound Off, which has provided professional opportunities for other deaf performing artists for the past eight years.

“A lot of the work he is doing with other deaf artists [across the country] is impactful and important,” says Sean Guist. The artistic director of Intrepid Theatre has hired Chris to perform his solo show, ‘Deafy’ to launch the Victoria company’s Incoming Festival.

Chris is in the midst of performing ‘Deafy’ across Canada and internationally. The tragicomedy uses sign language, surtitles, and spoken word to tell a story about living with hearing loss. It's also a universal tale about finding a place to belong.

“Whether we are a deaf or hard-of-hearing audience or a hearing audience, we are going to learn something,” Sean says.

Chris is also one of the stars of the post-apocalyptic thriller 'Finality of Dusk,' recently had his first play published, and was recognized with a Canada Council prize for innovation and creative leadership.

“I just keep going – find a way to connect, and do the work,” Chris says.

He says he always feel fortunate that not only has he realized his life-long dream being a full-time theatre professional, he’s supporting others to do the same.

“I think the young Chris would be surprised and proud,” he smiles humbly. “Definitely.”

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