Nicki Runge, Actress and Founder of ImaginASL
Meet Nicki, a Deaf actress in Colorado who is making headlines and shaping history through the art of acting. Nicki is the founder of ImaginASL, which is a theatre company here in Colorado who’s mission is to provide opportunities for artists to share and experience art through American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture.
What is the most widespread myth or stereotype that the mainstream community has about the Deaf community?
The most widespread myth about the Deaf Community is that all Deaf people can read lips, and as long as I speak distinctly and look at them, they will always understand every word I have to say. Actually, lip reading is an amazingly ineffective way of communicating. It’s estimated that lip readers can understand only 30% of the conversation taking place. That’s like missing two out of every three words being spoken! In situations where the Deaf person is familiar with the speaker or the conversation is easily predictable, comprehension goes up to 60%, but that’s still almost every other word missing from the exchange. Pretty terrible, really.
How was childhood and schooling different for you?
My childhood and schooling were different for me in that my family and hearing friends only used Signed Exact English. They also often left me out. Though I know they were trying so hard, I missed out on a lot of communication access. Many of my teachers took me out of the classroom for speech therapy and I have missed out on a lot of education. That’s why my reading and writing are 4th grade level.
What is the most rewarding thing/life event that you have experienced?
The most rewarding life event that I have experienced was living in Waterloo, Belgium. I experienced a lot of theatre, and traveling around Europe to many historical theatrical venues. I also was part of the champion volleyball team for international schools.
Do you find that the current caption and subtitle availability for television and films are enough?
No, 10 to 20 percent of shows are captioned and that’s not enough. There is a lot lacking or inaccurate captions, especially during live TV news.
What are the biggest hurdles to overcome in Deaf awareness in the next 5-10 years?
How do you process music, songs, and lyrics?
I had been involved with musical theatre and I love the feeling of beats, signing the songs and the rhythms of lyrics to follow. I really enjoy doing that.
Do you have a lot of friends in the non-Deaf community?
Yes. I have a lot of friends who are not from Deaf Community. Many of them are from Europe that I went to school with and kept in touch with. Being involved in theatre, much of that community is not deaf. Also, my husband is not from the deaf community. There are many challenges with people not from the Deaf Community, but I still enjoy it.
Have you found a lot of local Deaf groups, mixers, and associations to attend?
Yes. It is important to watch for news, invitations, and events to get involved with and support each other.
How do other sign languages differ in other countries?
Like hearing people speak different languages, it is the same with sign languages in foreign countries.
Did you attend college/university? If so, where did you go and what did you study?
Yes. I did attend college at the University of Northern Colorado, where I graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts – with a Directing emphasis.
What career path are you on now? What challenges have you faced and what doors of opportunity have been opened to you in regards to your career?
I am the founder of ImaginASL, which is a theatre company here in Colorado. The biggest challenge I have faced is securing funding to get the business off the ground. On the other hand, I have been presented with many great opportunities for networking and outreach within both the Hearing and Deaf Communities.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers?
Don’t give up your dreams, passions, and goals. Keep climbing like you are going to the top of Mt. Everest. Don’t make excuses because you’re deaf or not. You can achieve anything.
To find out more about the amazing things that Nicki and ImaginASL are doing, check out their website (below) and don’t forget to like them on Facebook!