White Space Poetry Project Festival Favorite Brings Deaf Arts Community to the Forefront in Cinema

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Award Winner "White Space" is Now Available Online for Free Viewing

There is a thriving arts community just outside the mainstream that most do not acknowledge or realize even exists. When an amazing creative project like White Space emerges, it becomes apparent that modern cinema is missing out on a rich diversity of work from the Deaf Arts Community. Bridging that gap is a newly released award-winning short film, now available online for viewing after three years on the international festival circuit.

White Space (2011) is the directorial film debut of playwright, poet, and actress Maya Washington, who got her start as a child actor in the Minneapolis theatre community. The concept, about a performance poet tumultuously walking through the streets of Los Angeles on his way to an open-mic performance, came to Washington quite literally one night in a dream. The next morning, she scribbled the narrative of that dream on paper with the climax—as The Poet finally arrives just before show’s end, instead of performing with his voice, he presents a poem in Sign Language. Washington also co-stars as The Poet’s girlfriend Shayna. Soon after White Space principal photography ended, lead actor Ryan Lane, who stars as “The Poet,” was cast as Travis on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth, and has become a deaf heartthrob among the show’s young fans.

“We all know there’s not a lot of roles for deaf actors or performers. We are a part of society that gets overlooked in Hollywood. People like Maya and projects like White Space and Switched at Birth help us get noticed and create more awareness of Deaf Culture,” signed Ryan Lane at the film’s release celebration on August 30th, the exact three-year anniversary of the film’s production shoot. Lane, Washington, cast members (including deaf comedian CJ Jones), and members of White Space Poetry Project, came together for an afternoon of live ASL poetry, spoken word, literary poetry, and music, hosted by Boardwalk 11 in Los Angeles with floral design by the world-renowned French Florist.

Also in attendance were Switched at Birth cast members BK Cannon (Switched at Birth), Stephanie Nogueras (Switched at Birth), Tina Huang (Rizzoli & Isles, Switched at Birth), and Matthew Kane (Once Upon a Time, Switched at Birth). Actor/writer Blake Cooper Griffin (Ride, It Could Be Worse), Delena Cortez, PR Director of Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), and Marc Bovee, Founder and Chairman of Global Event & Media Accessibility Initiative (GEMAI), were also on hand along with a number of White Space Poetry Project supporters. YouTube “Signalong” sensations Tina Cleveland and Paul Sirimarco also made an appearance on the red carpet.

White Space has been an ‘Official Selection’ of over 26 international film festivals to date and won ‘Best Short’ at The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and the Hollywood Black Film Festival among other awards and nominations. Additionally, Washington edited the White Space Poetry Anthology, a poetry collection featuring the work of award-winning and new deaf and hearing artists, available through the project website and Amazon, that serves as a companion collection to the film.

To watch White Space for free go to (http://vimeo.com/mayawashington/whitespace)


White Space Poetry Project is the brainchild of Creative Director Maya Washington, born in response to the lack of images of deaf artists, specifically poets, within the mainstream world of film and literary arts. Historically, deaf artist’s voices have been absent from larger mainstream conversations within the worlds of independent film and poetry. The White Space Poetry Project, is a three part creative venture: (1) White Space an award winning short film, starring Ryan Lane, (2) White Space Poetry Anthology featuring the work of deaf and hearing poets, and (3) poetry workshops, screenings, and events that honor the work of deaf and hearing artists throughout the world.

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Nicole LaPoint
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