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Students show signs of having a great time

Members of a sign language club put on their annual show, singing and signing and doing dance numbers.

By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2000


LECANTO -- Janie Stevens surely knows how to capture the attention of an auditorium full of young children. When she presented her annual After School Sign Language Club show last week it began with clowns running through the audience, a child dressed like an apple accompanied by a giant green and yellow worm walking up and down the Curtis Peterson Auditorium aisles, and a big yellow Styrofoam bus, complete with passengers and a driver walking across the floor in front of the stage.

The opening song, We Like to Party, was a big, musical, colorful, well . . . partying kind of song. The children in the audience were swiveling in their seats this way and that, trying to take in all the activity around them.

Stevens, 40, is an educational interpreter at Lecanto Middle School and also teaches sign language after school to both hearing and hearing-impaired students. They call themselves the After School Sign Language Club, and they love putting on these yearly performances. They did four shows last week to accommodate as many students and community members as they could.

The show's theme was "Feel the Magic," and it was very visual and spirited. The songs, which were sung and signed or simply danced, included Elvis Presley (Scott Jackson) twisting and turning to Hound Dog in front of a bevy of screaming females in felt skirts and pedal pushers, Cher (Patty Keen) signing The Shoop, Shoop Song to Inverness Primary School teacher Scott Hebert, and the Backstreet Boys (Jon Anderson, Scott Hackson, Kyle Silvares, Dustin Simon, Mike Vasaya, and Richie Weimann) performing Larger Than Life.

The show included a lot of audience participation. Many children were invited from their seats to dance and do the limbo. The cast gave out balloon creations and leis.

The Lecanto Middle students who were in the show said they enjoy doing it. "It's fun and exciting," said Mike Vasaya, 14.

"I like entertaining people and the audience," said Jon Anderson, 14. "I'm a go-out person."

They are also enthusiastic about the sign language club and why they spend time after school to learn to talk with their hands. "You can communicate with people who can't hear," said Pam Lynch, 14. "He or she could be your best friend and you can talk to them. You get education out of it, too, because you learn when you're performing."

Kendra Phillips, 12, joined the group because it's a "lot of fun" and "because, say, if your friend goes deaf in a car accident, you can talk to her."

Siobhan Murphy, 11, wants to be able to help the hearing impaired. "It's hard for deaf people," she said.

Bridget Blanche, 12, wants to help, too. "I think it's a good opportunity to learn sign language and to help deaf people and to jam with them."

The rest of the cast included Nikki Cummings, Lindsey Dergosits, Rachelle Dorleans, Sarah Grier, Kim Hamilton, Amanda Johns, Ashley Langley, Carley Martin, Miranda Moore, Meghan Murphy, Amanda Onorato, Meaghan Peterson, Kendra Phillips, Kaylee Renfro, Amanda Terry, Renee Wakeland and Richie Weimann.

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