Forty-five years after getting its start at the in Waterford, the National Theatre of the Deaf is returning to the area.
The organization celebrated the homecoming on Sunday with a ribbon cutting and performance at . The National Theatre of the Deaf will move its main office into the . The Monte Cristo Cottage on Pequot Ave. is the homestead of playwright Eugene O’Neill. The Eugene O’Neill Theatre owns the building and runs it as a seasonal museum.
John Basinger, a member of the board of trustees who was in the organization’s first acting company in 1967, said the theatre acted as a catalyst to help improve services for people with special needs. He described the organization as “the most important theater company in the world” and said it remains relevant today.
Tony Sheridan, president of the , said that when he first immigrated to the United States from Ireland he stayed with a sponsor family who had a deaf daughter. He said the theater was “critically important” to them and retains that value today.
“The work that the Theatre of the Deaf does is absolutely, incredibly important for a lot of people,” said Sheridan.
Dr. Harvey J. Corson, chair of the National Theatre of the Deaf board of trustees, said the organization got its start through federal funding. He said state funding and individual donors have helped sustain it through difficult economic times.
“We’ve survived all these years because of support from friends,” he said.
State Senator Andrea Stillman and State Rep. Betsy Ritter, who both live in Waterford, welcomed the organization back along with New London City Council President Michael Passero.
“It’s an opportunity to everyone in the area, but particularly to the town of Waterford,” said Ritter.
“It’s truly great to have this great theater back, and I’m so glad you chose the city of New London,” said Passero.
The National Theatre of the Deaf was founded with funds from the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and established itself at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The Little Theatre of the Deaf, which performs for younger audiences, began in 1968.
The theater moved to Chester in 1983 and later to the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford. The Little Theatre of the Deaf program will remain at this location.