Silent House brings ‘new type of theater’ to Waco

The Silent House Theater Company provides a space for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Photo courtesy of Alexandria Blanton.

By Mykah Briscoe | Reporter

Silent House Theatre Company was created by two people motivated by the “pure want of just wanting to do art,” according to Bradyn Braziel, co-owner of Silent House.

Silent House was established during the pandemic in March 2020 with a desire “to bring a new type of theater to Waco.”

With the motivation of co-owner Collin Selman, Braziel said that what was originally going to be a small two-person play with no set turned into a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which was performed at Mission Waco’s Jubilee Theatre.

“We went from doing a teeny nothing-show to putting on an actual show,” Braziel said.

With the success of the show and a positive response from the community, Braziel said she and Selman decided to become the owners of Silent House. They have had friends move back to Waco to work with them, Braziel said.

Among those friends are Alexandria Blanton, who played the role of Stella in their performance of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Blanton said that at the time, she was living in Austin, attending the University of Texas and becoming an interpreter for the deaf. After the success of the show, she decided to move back to Waco to work with Silent House and broaden access for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

“I knew I wanted to add a deaf focus in Silent House because interpreters, specifically in Waco, were not seen in theaters,” Blanton said.

Braziel said Blanton’s focus on bringing interpreters to Waco became important to Silent House as well.

“You don’t see a lot of interpreters interpreting things,” Braziel said. “You know, you don’t see it a lot at plays. You don’t see it a lot at sporting events or anything. So you see it a lot in big cities, but not in Waco. And so that was something that was important to her. And so, in turn, it became important to us.”

Blanton said Silent House has “interpreted nights” of shows for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and has also hosted “a talent night just for the deaf” called Open Light Night.

“The community really wants to see theater and wants to be able to experience it, but never had it growing up,” Blanton said. “Sign language and acting kind of go hand-in-hand sometimes. So to have a space to be able to act and have a voice is so important.

“Interpreted nights” function differently depending on the stage, Branton said. One way is what Branton calls shadow interpreting, in which interpreters follow actors on stage and interpret behind them.

“I personally prefer shadow interpreting,” Branton said. “It’s just harder in spaces, and it’s for more seasoned interpreters.”

Because of space constraints, Branton said Silent House often does standstill interpreting, in which there is a deaf section with the eyeline of the play behind the interpreters. If Branton is not acting, she functions as the main translator alongside a team of one or two others.

Silent House also sets itself apart through the plays it chooses, looking for what Braziel said they call “the Silent House moment.”

“There’s a spot in the play where the house — which is the audience and the actors and the technicians — everyone is so engaged that you could hear a pin drop,” Braziel said.

Braziel said the shows they look for tend to be a bit darker “because it’s not being done in Waco.”

“We do classics,” Braziel said. “We do new works. We do musicals, everything, comedies. But they all tend to have a little bit of a darker flare to them.”

Silent House’s upcoming show is a musical comedy called “Company” that opens on Nov. 11 at the Waco Civic Theatre. There, it will also announce its 2023 show season.

Braziel said that as Silent House continues to grow, they are hoping to get a building of their own, have a deaf actor on stage and become “a big part of what Waco’s doing.”

Sometimes people need to get away from their lives,” Braziel said. “Sometimes they need to not focus on [themselves] for a little bit. I mean, that’s why we watch movies; that’s why we pick up a good book. The only difference between that and live theater is that it’s live. You’re experiencing energy that’s on stage directly in front of you instead of on the screen.”