Gaitrie Persaud-Killings on Deaf Theatre

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings is shown performing ASL translation for a musical performance.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings performing live ASL translation during a concert.

I began my journey into theatre when Sage Lovell, the founder of Deaf Spectrum (a Toronto-based company aimed at finding opportunities for Canadian Deaf artists and promoting accessible ASL events), recognized my talent and supported my involvement in a play. This ignited my passion for performance, and, since then,¬†I have had a wide range of experiences in theatre, film, and television. Working as a Deaf performer in Toronto’s theatre scene has been challenging, but rewarding, and has shaped me into the professional artist I am today.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings as news anchor Arianna Salara and Graham Kent as news anchor Grant Gew√ľrtztraminer are shown sitting at a television news desk.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings as news anchor Arianna Salara and Graham Kent as news anchor Grant Gew√ľrtztraminer during the filming of The Squeaky Wheel: Canada.

I currently portray Simmi on CBC Gem’s Silly Paws. This short-form series is an initiative led by CBC Kids and CBC Accessibility to provide ASL content to Deaf children and their families.¬†I also act in Accessible Media Inc.‚Äôs satirical half-hour news program The Squeaky Wheel: Canada as the lead anchor Arianna Salara. The series premieres on June 24. Before that, I‚Äôll be performing in The Finale at Luminato in the Square on June 16. It takes place all day in Toronto‚Äôs David Pecaut Square, it‚Äôs free, and there will be concerts by Measha Brueggergosman-Lee, Haviah Mighty, and Big Freedia, among others. I will be interpreting music and performing Stheno‚Äôs Broken Curse alongside my daughter Aria and the actor Jaideep Goray.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings directs a group of masked actors in a performance of The Red Rose Bleeds.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings directs a group of masked actors in a performance of The Red Rose Bleeds.

Another one of my current projects is a piece titled Spitting the Lens that uses Commedia dell’arte to facilitate a collaboration between hearing and Deaf actors. Additionally, I am developing the play The Red Rose Bleeds, which is centered on a Deaf and wealthy female serial killer who targets child molesters and rapists. It was presented at the SOUND OFF Deaf theatre festival (in collaboration with Edmonton‚Äôs Fringe Theatre Adventures) this past March. In addition to all that, I have many other hats to fill on an ongoing basis: I am a Deaf music performer, ASL coach, writer, director, Deaf consultant, and actress.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings and a group of actors in Commedia dell'arte masks pose for a spontaneous picture.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings and actors rehearse The Red Rose Bleeds.

As a Deaf artist and consultant, I have been part of the Luminato Festival Toronto’s Access Advisory Group this year. My involvement has allowed me to nurture new talents, enhance accessibility for the Deaf community, and further develop my leadership qualities.¬†My participation in this international arts festival includes a collaboration between my company, Phoenix The Fire, and the Disability Collective, an entirely disability-led performing arts organization in Toronto. During the pandemic, I established Phoenix The Fire to support Deaf artists facing barriers. We provide ASL interpretation services in music, theatre, and film, offer Deaf plays and workshops, employ Deaf consultants and ASL coaches, and empower Deaf artists across various roles. A good ASL theatre or film interpreter effectively removes communication barriers to ensure that the Deaf community can engage meaningfully with the content on stage or screen.¬†Theatre companies or filmmakers in need of ASL interpretation should persevere in making their productions accessible and match their dedication and passion for creation with their desire for inclusion.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings in a red and orange costume kneels before her daughter Aria in a performance of Stheno's Broken Curse.

Gaitrie Persaud-Killings and her daughter Aria in a performance of Stheno’s Broken Curse.

Phoenix The Fire is always seeking new talent and advocating for the production of more Deaf plays to create additional opportunities for Deaf performers. As for further steps towards making theatre more inclusive and accessible, there is the need for greater representation, more extensive and comprehensive accessibility accommodations, better training for practitioners, and ongoing advocacy efforts within the theatre community. A good example of this is to support Deaf-led, artist-run businesses!