LUNCHEON - 21ST MAY 2014
Speaker: Jodie Harris, deaf actor, and star of ‘The Sound of Waves’
Topic: ‘The Sound of Waves - an allegorical tale’
Chairperson: Elaine Saunders
Jodie Harris lost her hearing before she was four years old. She used hearing aids and later received a cochlear implant during her first year of a Bachelor of Dramatic Arts (Acting) at VCA. By then she had travelled around the world, and developed many strategies for surviving as a deaf traveler. When she decided to get the cochlear implant, she agreed to receive a newly developed electrode array, with the obligation of completing many hours of listening studies at the Bionic Ear Institute. She was studying full time, working part time and giving many hours a week as a cochlear implant (bionic ear) research volunteer for the benefit of others. Many times she would study all night, in order to be available in the early morning to carry out her research role, before going in to college. Jodie realised that her acting training was helping her adjust to her new hearing experience. She was also starting to lay the foundation for a personal and professional investigation of ‘hearing and being heard’, both of which she found necessary to be fully connected to the hearing community. As an oral (speaking) deaf person, she was not welcomed by the signing deaf, but she was not at home with hearing people either.
When Jodie successfully graduated from the VCA, she raised money for a research program in vocal empowerment a program designed to understand the effect of how actor vocal training could help young people with cochlear implants. The project was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), and lead by Professor Geraldine Cook, with partners; Cochlear Ltd., the VCA Drama Department, University of Melbourne and the Dept. of Otolaryngology, also University of Melbourne. The Vocal Empowerment study comprised seven adolescents who had received cochlear implants, and who relied on oral communication. The work lead to several publications and presentations. Jodie is still involved in the ongoing training and research in the Let it Out! Program. The team is developing online training modules teaching actor vocal training to people with hearing difficulties. She currently runs this program at Methodist Ladies College with their hearing impaired unit. In addition to this, the research program lead to a solo performance called The Sound of Waves. In this performance, Jodie played 9 characters, in an allegorical tale of the journey into the isolation of deafness and the return to communication, as she found her voice. Jodie is a deaf person who relies on one cochlear implant and one hearing aid to hear. Jodie is an extraordinary person, who has achieved so much against a background of deafness. She is also a mother of two lovely children, but she always finds time to help others overcome the challenge of deafness and isolation. She is currently preparing for a new production of The Sound of Waves, hopefully to be performed for the general public. If Jodie was an athlete, she would have been a Para Olympian. As it was, when Cochlear Ltd won the Australian Design award in 2000, and she was unexpectedly summoned to the stage to speak her words ”In giving Cochlear this award, you should be proud of your selves. This device hasn’t just given me back my hearing. It’s given me back my life”. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Synopsis Of The Lunch:
Last week’s guest speaker, Jodie Harris, a deaf actress with a Cochlear implant addressed the club with the theme, Raising Awareness of Hearing Loss, Despair and Isolation. Jodie developed her art at the Victorian College of the Arts. She is happily married to a most supportive loving husband sharing two beautiful children. A colleague has written a play centering on the life of a deaf person. The Sound of Waves is a whimsical and touching story of one girl's submergence and triumphant escape from the metaphoric ocean of her isolation, despair and hearing loss. It will be performed at Fortyfive Downstairs from 2 - 12 October 2014.
The Sound of Waves tells the story of Shelly, a normal kid who is ‘becoming more and more fish every day’. Shelly finds refuge in a world under the sea only to find that one day, even the sea is not enough, and she must learn to walk on land again. Jodie’s solo performance portrays 6 characters all representing different aspects of herself as she journeys from isolation.