Deaf West Theatre will be holding a gala to honor Ed Waterstreet, founder of Deaf West Theatre and former artistic director, on Feb. 9, 2013 in Los Angeles.
“It will be an exciting evening,” Deaf West Theatre’s Artistic Director David J Kurs said. “To put it simply, we want to honor Ed upon his retirement and the wonderful legacy that he has created with Deaf West Theatre. It will be a fitting send off, with many of his close collaborators present.”
Waterstreet graduated from Wisconsin School for the Deaf, then majored in physical education at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. He was in four plays at Gallaudet where actor Bernard Bragg discovered him, and invited him to participate in National Theatre for the Deaf (NTD) for summer school. After Waterstreet graduated from Gallaudet in 1968, Bragg invited him to become a full time actor with NTD. Waterstreet then moved to Los Angeles after 12 years working for NTD.
Waterstreet looked for a theatre for the deaf in California and couldn’t find one. Therefore, he started Deaf West Theatre with just $6,000 at hand. He managed to locate a 5,000 square-ft building in North Hollywood in the Noho District with the help of members of the city council. It took him two years to renovate the building into a theater. He then became the artistic director for Deaf West for 22 years—where he made decisions about budget, choice of plays to run, whose staff to hire, and whom to select for Board Members.
“I wanted more time to travel, enjoy golfing, and seeing people,” Waterstreet said. “I was ready to give my position to a younger person (David J Kurs).”
Kurs worked with me as assistant director for two years, Waterstreet said. I felt that DJ Kurs was a good choice as the next artistic director per Deaf West Theatre’s Board Members’ votes.
Waterstreet has many good memories running Deaf West. After he opened Deaf West Theatre in 1990, he picked Gin Game, starred by Phyllis Frelich and Pat Gray Bill, directed by his wife, Linda Bove (known for roles on Sesame Street). Waterstreet then directed Shirley Valentine starred by Frede Norman, which was a one-woman show. Big River, the musical play, was the most challenging play for him since deaf cast had to learn how to sing in sign language.
“It was a big hit—Big River—we showed this show on Broadway, toured nationally and traveled to Japan,” Waterstreet said. “It was a big success. I was happy that I chose to run Big River.”
Waterstreet ran 45 plays throughout his 22-year career at Deaf West with a vision to help deaf actors to have opportunities to show their work.
“I want to give deaf actors opportunities to show their work to the entertainment industry, the theatre industry, producers, TV executives, and directors,” Waterstreet said. “I want industry professionals to be impressed by the deaf actors which yields more networking opportunities made possible by stage work. It is my dream to see deaf actors to get more jobs in acting.”
“Theatre is my bag,” Waterstreet said.
He has been involved with T.V. and film, but he prefers theatre more. Beverly Nero is a hearing actress who worked with Waterstreet in his plays.
“Ed was the best boss any “hearie” could work for – he was so patient while I learned how to sign and it was an honor to be trusted to voice for him. Ed’s vision was crystal clear and a joy to support,” Nero said. “His passion for Deaf West was contagious and inspirational. He worked for two years for free before he took a penny for himself. That’s only one example defining the purity of his devotion and aspirations for the community of artists and audiences that he built over decades of time.”
Waterstreet still serves as a Board Member with Deaf West. He still gives DJ Kurs advice about budget, how to explore plays to run.
“I will come to every play run by Deaf West on opening night,” Waterstreet said. “Enjoying plays is part of life.”
Waterstreet now lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, Linda Bove of 42 years.