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Deaf West Theatre Company is a North Hollywood, California based cultural institution. It is the first professional resident Sign Language Theatre in the western half of the United States.

Founded in 1989 by Bob Hiltermann [1] and Irene Oppenhiem, it was originally called “Fountain Theatre of the Deaf,” because their main venue was the Fountain Theatre located in Hollywood. During the first year the theater primarily taught workshops for dozens of deaf writers, directors and actors. Among the first attendees were Ed Waterstreet,[2] CJ Jones, Anthony Natale, Terrylene Sacchetti, Richard Kendall and Phyllis French.

In 1990, the theater began to present short plays. Later, due to financial issues, Mr. Hiltermann announced that he was stepping down as the full-time Managing Director. Ed Waterstreet was chosen to take his place due to his experience with the “National Theater for the Deaf,” and he was named the theater’s first Artistic Director. They soon changed the name to “Deaf West Theater,” which was taken from the “Deaf Way Festival” in Washington D.C., where Bob Hiltermann had been the producer. Their first full-length play was “The Gin Game,” and starred Phyllis Frelich and Pat Graybill, and Bob Hiltermann starred in their second production, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

In 1992, Hiltermann left the company completely and Ed Waterstreet assumed the managing and artistic duties full-time. The company now has its own art-deco complex in the NoHo Arts District of North Hollywood, which includes a 90-seat theatre.

DWT presents adaptations of classics, contemporary and original works. DWT productions are presented in American Sign Language with simultaneous translation in English.

Deaf West Theatre brought a revival of Big River to the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway in 2003, as well as Spring Awakening in 2015.


  1. ^ Bob HIltermann
  2. ^ Ed Waterstreet

[1] Bob Hiltermann [2] Ed Waterstreet

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