Helen Keller went to town
Riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in her hat
*sigh* Dan, clearly we need to have a good, cleansing glitterbombing to sort this all out.
@2, I'd glitterbomb that open-letter-writin' Zoe, if she hadn't just been showered with all the sparkly attention she'd been hoping for. Dan gives and he gives and he gives....
@2: Throwing glitter on gay guys is like throwing sprinkles on cupcakes.
Now I want cupcakes. What were we talking about?
Reading her original letter reminded me of that whole "leotarded" thing, which was not so funny and pretty bad form on Dan's part.
Wow, Dan must have really dashed this one out. I picked up on two typos: "forced audience members to actually bsit up" and "sneaks up our audiences."
@ 7, Dan dashes stuff out all the time, then fixes the typos and sometimes even rewrites the heading. It used to annoy me because I don't see the point in rushing it out and fixing it later, but I got over it. You can, too.
Q: How did Helen Keller burn her fingers?

A: Tried to read the waffle iron.
@8: I always love a healthy dose of condescension, but I assure you there's nothing for me to "get over."
Moral of this story? Don't diss Dan unless a) you've really got your story straight or b) you're ready for a pretty articulate smack down.
And the point of it all is, don't dash off letters complaining about things you haven't experienced. Shrieking self-righteousness doesn't cut it when there are actual performances involved and you weren't in the house.
@11: Pretty much. :-)
God, it cracks me up when buthurt people write wailing letters about something they haven't seen or don't know anything about.

If you're going to get all offended and buthurt, at least do yourself a favor and get offended by something that is real.
Thank you for being thoughtful, Dan.

A mum with a hearing impaired child
Social Justice Sally strikes again!
Oh great; thanks. I'd *just* put the thing out of my mind. I've been dying to see this play since it opened - it sounds fucking hilarious - and have been checking flights for like 2 months now (I live on the east coast), straight up to last night, hoping for a 'miracle' of my own in the price department, and then a way to explain to people that yes, I was actually flying clear across the country solely to attend a drag play ... but the bastards have the face to charge $650 for one lousy flight, and I just can't swing it. Sniff. And tomorrow's the last showing.

Maybe it'll end up off Broadway ...?
Her life kept being interesting for a long time. Worth a wiki look for what happened after.
Is there no ASL sign for irony?
@15 - thank you for that.
@15 - I may be the last person on the Internet to see that, but thanks. I'm still dealing with the after-shock giggles.
Poor Dan. He's got his knickers all twisted. Yeah, kinda tough when you've mocked blind people and get called on it. Dan can't play the hipster card here. He's so nervous he's quoting Crosscut in his defense. Dan you are an asshole. Good luck with the book, another exploitation of the adopted child?
Wow, October is here already?
@23 -twisted knickers? You too probably have not seen the play. Saw it 2x, just to make sure the feelings I felt were true, and they were. Dans response/defense makes total sense, whacky as it may seem. It IS touching, and it catches you off-guard. But why should you care @23? You've made up your mind long ago.
How does this open letter compare to Zoe's open letter to Trey Parker and Matt Stone?
*Spoiler Alert*
I saw Miracle! last week.I had fun and laughed a lot. The only thing that kept me from being "genuinely moved" were some technicalities. Firstly, why would Helen spontaneously vocalize "Vodka"? The real Annie Sullivan put Helen's hands on her throat and mouth for her to "hear" the words. Annie never did that in Miracle. It's not like Helen could see her mouthing the word!
Also, Helen already had a sign for "mother" all along. Annie didn't succeed in shoving a word in just because she taught Helen the English spelling for the word she already knew!
Otherwise, loved it.
Dan, you're a national treasure.

Can't wait for the movie of "Miracle!"
Dan might be spreading himself too thin...I think I smell a shark jumping somewhere...
What gets to me is that Zoe will never understand that she embarrassed herself with this letter. No one told her that placing judgement and drawing conclusions on a play that she's neither seen nor read about is intellectually bankrupt. AfterEllen published this, knowing this.

Zoe will go through life, smugly thinking she's championed the downtrodden and put that privileged Dan Savage in his place. She'll never know she's made a fool of herself.
Christ, @23, you are one bitter, sad, nasty motherfucker, you know that?
@3: Dan, I'm quoting you on that :)
Here here 18. My social circle in Philly and NYC are eager for this one to go on the road. And I like it even better knowing there's a heart to it.
I read her letter first and I thought, "Boy, Dan's really screwed the pooch. How on Earth is he going to talk his way out of this one?"

And then, yet again, he convinced me he's right. Smooth-talking bastard.
This is what smackdown smells like.
I saw the play Thursday night. I have a deaf daughter. I laughed until I cried. I was very moved. This play absolutely did NOT mock the deaf/blind community. It mocked drag all to hell and back though. Dan did absolutely exactly as he intended. He told a moving story in a new (and completely irreverant) way. Yes it was filthy and as crude as it gets. I guess my humor goes there anyway, because I wasn't offended in the least. And the guy who played Helen Steller? Brilliant. He nailed that performance. He also ended up in my lap, but that is another story.

BTW @16 kim in portland. I so want to meet you. If you ever get to Seattle, let me know. Sounds like we have a lot in common.
Hey, SeattleKim—if you're willing, it would be great if you could swing over to Zoe's post at AfterElton and share your thoughts. Thanks!…
Helen Keller jokes still? Heehee...I thought her popularity went silent when I was younger.
Congrats on the smash hit, Dan!

Very bummed to have missed it. Please do another Seattle run.
Hi Dan. Done. I pasted my first paragraph from here and expanded on it.

It really was a great play, and I'm so glad I went. I took my oldest daughter (the deaf one is only 14. Not taking her to this type of play yet.) My husband said he just shook his head when he read her facebook update about us going up onstage with the drag queens to enjoy jello shots.
Zoe you really missed the mark, and your assumptions about Dan and the cast are way off. I was totally concerned about all the things you mentioned prior to seeing the show, and I think it was hilarious, moving, and awesome. See the show FIRST, then bitch about it if you are still so inclined.
@ SeattleKim,

It would be lovely to meet you, too.
The real moral of the story is that "risky" art is a lot less risky if you can use your newspaper as a bully pulpit to fisk anyone who criticizes you. Oh, and if you think something might be offensive you're required to pay the creator $30 for a ticket before you can voice an opinion.
Haters gonna hate.

after all, filthy and crude as it gets has always been the sure path to cultural enlightenment.
Dan - after MarleyBarley and I transcribed the Ira Glass podcast, I sent you an email (back in February) asking if you'd like to help / at the very least endorse some kind of volunteer group to transcribe your podcasts on a regular basis for your readership that can't hear them. I never heard back, so I made some, possibly unfair, assumptions about you, and then I started to feel really bad about my transcription skills. See how our feelings get hurt by what's obviously just an inability to manage an email client? I realize you get a lot of email, but it should be in there somewhere.
@47, Hey RT, you may want to direct your question to Nancy H. She is the producer of Dan's podcast. Maybe put a question to her in the comments thread of Dan's next podcast. It is a great idea, and would be very helpful to a lot of people.
I saw this play last Sunday, and I was truly offended by how bored I was.
I was at the Thursday night performance of Miracle! and I'm one of the deaf people Dan saw at the post-play discussion (I'm also on the board of Deaf Spotlight). There was a discussion FB about a month ago, in our community, initiated by a deaf-blind person, who read Zoe's comments and was very upset with what this play seemed to be saying about Helen Keller, and by proxy, deaf-blind people. A healthy discussion followed, admittedly by people who'd never seen the performance. I had requested an interpreter for this and other plays for Intiman's summer festival, so I suggested, despite my own trepidations (based on what Zoe said) that we all keep an open mind and go see the interpreted performance. Well, quite a few did, as Dan said, including the deaf-blind person that initiated the discussion, who promised to keep an open mind. He'd never seen a drag show send-up of well-known movies and plays, a staple of the '80's and '90's. By the time the intermission rolled around, he was a convert, telling me that he was not insulted at all, and thought the play was hilarious. The play actually makes Helen's story humane and universal; another interpreter friend who saw the play earlier said it seems more a indictment of the system of educating the deaf than it is about Helen Keller. The interpreters were having a great time. I thought the play was absolutely a hoot to watch. (And yes, Deaf Spotlight would like to explore the possibility of opening the play to a wider audience in the community.)
Yay Dan, way to take on the "Offended Community". Somebody needs to write a play openly mocking these self-righteous arm-chair moralists.
I wish people would note the difference between *portraying* something and *endorsing* something (re: the shock collar).
Dan, you're a saint.

I would have deleted this message as soon as it became clear she hadn't seen the play. Some people just get off on being offended. That always triggers a mean streak in me. Request denied!
The response by Dan didn't seem to show any consideration for how the writer may have felt. Whether or not the defense of his art is valid, her feelings and opinion should still be respected and not condescended.

The show should have been presented with ASL interpreters without the Deaf community asking after someone expressed feeling offended. I'm not sure if DeafBlind community members were at the showing, but I have yet to hear anything from them.

To #30/jade the problem is that even if someone did point out that she was behaving badly she wouldn't listen, instead she would scream about how the person was abelist and continue patting herself on the back.
I'm curious, why make assumptions on what Zoe is thinking/feeling, especially when criticizing the idea of her making assumptions about Dan Savage?
Posting on behalf of a DeafBlind lady who cannot access this site because of the wicked capcha:

Dear Dan Savage,

I appreciate the time you took to get some feedback from Deaf audience members, such as in the following instances:

“The deaf audience members at last night's performance—almost all of whom stayed for the talkback—loved the show.”

“There were ASL-interpreted performances of the other shows in the festival and twenty times as many deaf people came to see Miracle! as came to see the other shows combined. (I asked one of the deaf audience members last night what he thought of the sign—"keep your hands shut"—and he told me, through an interpreter, that he thought it was hilarious.)”

“I also had a detailed conversation with a theater-goer who has seen Miracle!, loves it, and has a deaf son. He said it was hysterical and did justice to the story of Helen Keller, and the heart of it.”

“And this should blow your mind, Zoe: there were people at last night's performance from Deaf Spotlight, a non-profit arts organization for the deaf. After the talkback session they asked me for a copy of the script.”

That said, there is one component that seems to be missing. Based on your descriptions here, none of the people whose feedback you outlined…was Deaf-Blind. They were all either Deaf, or in at least one case you mentioned, a (hearing?) parent of a Deaf child.

I don't want to make any assumptions or form any opinions on the show without having seen it myself. I just want to be clear that I am not claiming your show will necessarily be offensive to all Deaf-Blind people.

That said, I am curious to know if you did get any feedback from any Deaf-Blind audience members, and just neglected to mention them in the article. If so, what was their reaction overall? If you haven’t asked any Deaf-Blind audience members, I would urge you to either ask some Deaf-Blind audience members what their reactions were, or encourage Deaf-Blind people to watch the show.

While Deaf and Deaf-Blind people do share the common experience of Deafness, combined Deafness and Blindness certainly changes an individual's experience and Blindness is not a facet of one's experience that can easily be overlooked. In other words, Deaf-Blindness is a distinct experience from Deafness alone and results in a different worldview and mindset, including any gut-level reactions viewers might have had to this show.

Thank you.
@57 This is intended to be a genuine question, not an off-the-cuff or offensive one. How would a Deaf-Blind person experience the show? Would it be through an interpreter? I don't have any personal experience with Deaf-Blindness, and I'm genuinely curious (especially because I'm a professional actor myself) about how someone could take in a show who can neither hear nor see it.
@ Miss Julia: In my comments (#50) I posted some comments from my deaf-blind friend. Also, I requested interpreters from Intiman for the full festival, not just Miracle!, and long before there was any discussion about the nature of the deaf-blind character. I regularly see interpreted or captioned performances here in Seattle.
@58: I am not the right person to ask that question. I suggest doing research if you are interested in the sensory experience of the Deaf-Blind community.

@59: It may be better if the Deaf-Blind speak for themselves. And it would definitely be best if the concerns of the Deaf community in general were met with more respect.
So, MissJulia, you're just here to pontificate on behalf of Deaf-Blind folks, but not actually move the conversation forward in any way?
@60 "It may be better if the Deaf-Blind speak for themselves."

So, your transcription of a deaf-blind person's words is giving a legitimate voice to the opinions of the deaf-blind, but robbo88's relating of a conversation with a deaf-blind acquaintance is not? Robbo, apparently, you need your deaf-blind associate to give you a direct quote, here, 'cuz if you merely tell us what happened, you know, you're taking his agency away... Not.

No, MissJulia, I'm sorry, but there's no way you can spin this so that the opinion of your deaf-blind friend who hasn't been to the play trumps the opinion of a deaf-blind person who has. Especially considering that your friend was seeking the very opinions that Robbo was proffering: the opinion of a deaf-blind person who'd been to the play.
@61: I am speaking on behalf as myself as a Deaf person. The public message about the show, without a person having seen the show- appears very condescending. Especially when written and directed by someone who isn't Deaf or Deaf-Blind. That really stings. The letter above doesn't seem to acknowledge how this might hurt. Suppose I did see the show and still had concerns. Would my concerns be acknowledged, or "smacked down" in the same way?

@62: Please be aware it wasn't the Deaf-Blind person who saw the show, that actually commented. It was another person summarizing that person's sentiment. And following the opinion of *one* person is generally not a fair way of gauging a group of people's sentiment. The lady above who commented- did not offer an opinion about the show. She emphasized the importance of seeking input from the Deaf-Blind community.
The lady who posted the earlier comments asking about Deaf-Blind community input asked that I post the following comments in response to @58:

TenrSinger: Deaf-Blindness entails a range of experiences and I cannot speak for all DB people. As someone who has experienced total deafblindness, I have enjoyed movies and other cultural events through a tactile sign language interpreter who filled me in on both auditory and visual information. The skilled interpreters I've had have provided appropriately-detailed descriptions of what is being said and what is happening visually while maintaining a balance between capturing the intended artistic "feel" and leaving room for my personal interpretation (for example by not telling me what a character is thinking, but instead telling me what the character is doing and letting me come up with my own ideas of what I imagine the character is thinking). A DB person with varying kinds of blindness or deafness can also make use of close-vision interpreters, audio description through assistive listening devices, braille or large print closed-captioning, or any number of other accommodations an individual comes up with, that works for them. Not all DB people have absolutely no usable vision or hearing, so a DB person might be able to enjoy a show directly through their residual hearing/vision. In other words, there are really many ways a DB person can enjoy a movie or play. Again I can't speak for all DB people, so it's best to just ask around and get different answers from different people, but hopefully that at least somewhat answers your question.
Regarding response #64, Miss Julia pretty much describes how a deaf-blind person may enjoy a performance. Just as there is a full range of hearing ability, from 100% hearing to 100% deafness, with everything in between (in/ability to hear high notes to in/ability to hear bass sounds) there is also a full range of sightedness, from 100% blind to severe or partial vision (and in/ability to see from the center or sides of the eyeball, etc.) so too with deaf-blindedness. As Miss Julia indicates, using a variety of access methods: tactile interpreting, close-vision interpreting, assistive listening devices, etc.can enable deaf-blind persons access to theater, film, performances, etc.

As a Deaf person who has produced plays in ASL as well as produced many events in Deaf culture, I can say that I prefer that Deaf actors and actresses portray Deaf characters in film and theater. And I prefer that plays in ASL be directed by Deaf persons as well. That said, would it be possible to perform four plays in repertory at Intiman (in addition to Miracle!, the same actors and actresses were cast in Hedda Gabler, Dirty Story and Romeo and Juliet) with a deaf-blind or deaf actor? It's possible, but it's not probable. Acting chops and availability to perform throughout the summer, not to mention the unfortunate dearth of deaf actors and actresses, and for roles for them to play, all enter the equation. Having a hearing director with stature, such as Dan Savage (or as in the past, Peter Sellars, John Seymour Hoffman and others) advance the cause, especially when the portrayal, as in Miracle!, is sensitive.

Here's a review of the play from DeafReview:…
A lot of interesting questions in that review. I wouldn't discount that the production may have great artistic benefit. But I wouldn't discount the concern of those who feel offended by the artistic exclusion in the introduction and production process either.
I guess you can persist in feeling offended if you want to. I'm just saying that if you were there, and saw the introduction and understood the production process, you might feel different. And you might not.

I'm reminded of the Republicans in Congress who shouted bloody murder at the David Wojnarowicz photograph at the Smithsonian exhibition of "Hide and Seek" and demanded that the show be shut down, without ever even seeing the exhibition of gay and lesbian portraits.
I don't think feeling offended is a persistence. But why make a comparison like that if not to diminish other people's feelings?
I'm not talking about diminishing anyone's feelings. I'm talking about the fact that you haven't actually seen the items that you purport to be offended by. You've read a third-hand account by someone about this sign that she heard about, about the play, but are offended by this account. I'm saying that if you actually saw it, you might not have been offended. Perhaps offense should be taken at the person who wrote the third-hand account, rather than at Dan Savage, the actors or the play.
Yes, I'm a bit disappointed about that sign. Do I need to see the play to clear up that feeling? I don't really want to at this point.

I'm also disappointed that it wasn't acknowledged how hearing about that sign makes Deaf or DeafBlind people feel, especially when they weren't asked to consult or invited to the show. Unless I'm wrong and they were.
Was input sought from the DeafBlind community? There is a significant difference between seeking input from Deaf organizations vs DeafBlind organizations. So far I don't see any reference to such attempt.
Was input sought from the DeafBlind community? There is a significant difference between seeking input from Deaf organizations vs DeafBlind organizations. So far I don't see any reference to such attempt.

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