Announcing Special Engagement with Northern Ireland’s c21 Theatre Company

EXPECTING by Charis McRoberts Builds Connection Between Deaf and Hearing Audiences

February 12, 2024: The Keegan Theatre is pleased to announce a special engagement with c21 Theatre Company, a Northern Irish touring theater company that champions new works and innovative storytelling. This May, c21 will present the U.S. premiere of the poetic new play, EXPECTING by Charis McRoberts, which explores experiences unique to deaf and hearing couples. Developed in collaboration with deaf artist Paula Clarke and featuring both deaf and hearing artists, the play interweaves spoken and sign language in its storytelling, creating an opportunity for connection between deaf and hearing audiences.

“We’re thrilled to host c21 at Keegan this spring and to add this remarkable and compelling production to our 2024 lineup,” says Artistic Director Susan Marie Rhea. “This represents the culmination of several years of planning, after numerous delays and reschedulings due to the pandemic. Keegan has long been a champion of Irish works, new works, and plays that forge connection and remind us of our shared humanity. EXPECTING represents all of these facets of theatermaking, and the fact that this show is presented for, representative of, and accessible to both hearing and deaf audiences makes it an even more exciting piece of theater for Keegan to be a part of.”

The play arrives in Washington, DC after making its world premiere in Belfast in early 2023 and presenting to great acclaim at the 2023 Edinburgh Deaf Festival, a newly established arm of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“We have been on an incredible journey with this play ever since the world premiere in Belfast and our successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,” explains director Stephen Kelly, c21’s Co-founder and Creative Director, “and now we are very happy to be forming this very positive relationship with the Keegan Theatre. It is essential to keep accessibility within the arts at the forefront of what we do, and we continue to strive to improve access and break down barriers together. Interacting with the d/Deaf community has been an integral part of this journey and long may it last.”

About the play: Shauna and Robbie are expecting… different things. Shauna expects motherhood won’t be easy. Robbie can’t wait to be a dad. Then she arrives. Encountering financial difficulties alongside the arrival of baby Aisling and the barriers Shauna faces, Robbie spirals. Can Shauna and Robbie adjust their expectations and find a way back to one another? Will they sink or swim? Break down barriers with c21 Theatre Company with this accessible new show as Shauna and Robbie plunge into parenthood.

The cast of EXPECTING features Paula Clarke as Shauna and Eoghan Lamb as Robbie, with c21 Co-founder and Creative Director Stephen Kelly directing and Sophie Thompson stage managing.

“This trip to Washington is such an important one,” remarks deaf actor and collaborator Paula Clarke. “For deaf artists and performers, it can be difficult to break through into mainstream arts, as our language and culture are different. With my casting in the role of Shauna in EXPECTING, c21 ensures that we not only showcase our wonderful language, culture, and stories but also how integrated theatre can be, so that it welcomes and includes everyone. This tour sends a message to the deaf community to aim high, that they too can achieve their dreams. It’s also a way of showing the arts world the unique perspective and value that deaf artists can bring to any production. I think the collaboration between Keegan and c21 is an incredible opportunity for me as an artist and to shine a light on this incredible show in another part of the world.”

As part of their tour to Washington, DC, c21 is also collaborating with Gallaudet University’s theatre and dance department, one of the foremost programs in the country for deaf and hard of hearing students interested in the performing arts. c21 will present live excerpts from EXPECTING and Paula Clarke will participate in discussions with students about the process of developing the play and about the themes of the piece. These events are designed to engage Gallaudet students with the play as well as build a creative partnership between c21 Theatre Company and Gallaudet University.

“Alongside our partnership with the Keegan Theatre,” Stephen Kelly continues, “working with Gallaudet will give us a unique opportunity to develop relationships with high profile partners on an international stage.”

The Keegan Theatre is an award-winning theater company in the lively Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC presenting plays and musicals that “take audiences to the vital heart of the human experience.” Additionally, as part of the company’s founding mission, Keegan has a rich history of bridging the theatrical traditions of America and Ireland through presenting Irish works to American audiences; commissioning, developing, and producing world premieres and U.S. premieres by Irish playwrights; touring classic American works to audiences across Ireland (the company has taken 14 productions to Ireland in its 27 year history); and hosting Irish artists and companies at its Dupont Circle home.