Deaf comedian and story teller, passes away
[Transcript] Mary Beth Miller, known for her involvement with theatre and her one-woman comedy shows, passed away on August 5.
Miller graduated from Kentucky School for the Deaf and went to Gallaudet University for her B.A. She also got other degrees from two other universities, Connecticut College and New York University.
Miller was one of the founders for New York Deaf Theatre and she was involved with the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) by acting and writing/directing original plays.
Her one-woman comedy shows were recorded on videotape. Here is a short clip.
Video from YouTube/California School for the Deaf:
MARY BETH MILLER:
My friend was chatting with my mother and noticed my head bobbing. My friend told my mother that she better check her daughter because something might be wrong. My mother said, “okay” and opened the door to see my mouth open. My mother was scared and had no idea what it was. She grabbed my legs and shook me upside-down. My head almost hit the ground. She shook me so hard that people passing by looked at me. Cars stopped. People wondered what my mother was doing. Finally, a huge piece came out of my mouth.
Video from “Language Landscape” by San Francisco Public Library
What can my hands do? There is so much opportunity to play with them. How did talking hands start? It started with fingerspelling CAT and COW or DOG at the same time. The left stayed the same but the right changed. So the left hand in sign language is passive, while the right hand is dominant. The right hand has signs that “strike” against the submissive left hand. So I decided to develop a character for both hands. The right is sweet, kind, willing, flexible, and understanding. The left is more strict, unwilling, not understanding, and easy to be jealous, because it is passive, of course. The hands always fight when I perform!
(Miller performing a skit that shows the two hands talking and fighting with each other)
Renca: Miller was a co-author of several sign language books for children, “Handtalk: An ABC of Fingerspelling & Sign Language” and “Handtalk Zoo.”
The Daily Moth reached out to Patrick Graybill, who used to work with Miller, to explain who she was as a person.
My first impression of her was when I was teaching at the Kendall school while she was a student at Gallaudet University along with my brother. I noticed that she was very funny, very creative, and she loved songs. She teased around with people a lot. Eventually I finally got to work with her at the NTD. Her personality was exactly the same then. I still remember clearly this one time when we had to rehearse for a scene. I was supposed to do one part and based on the script that the director handed me, I was to meet her at the park. I wasn’t aware that the director told her she was Death. She tried her best to give out hints and it took a while for me to decipher her hints. I’d enjoyed her humor so much, I hadn’t realized who she was and when I finally did, I was shocked! She liked to tease people. When I toured with her for her show, she always had people completely mesmerized by her humor, her teasing and her hospitality. We’ll miss her truly and people have been reaching out to me wondering why they hadn’t seen one of her one-woman shows in such a while. It was just time for her to begin to move on from us. Today, for me, it feels very odd because I don’t see her around anymore, but I feel she is in good hands.
Renca: Comments were seen on Facebook that Miller always brought so much laughter and joy to people. We thank Miller for her valuable contribution to our Deaf community. She will always be remembered.
LINK TO FULL STORY by Mary Beth Miller
Gallaudet University: [gallaudet.edu]