The industry-wide theater shutdown didn’t stop the annual MCC Theater Miscast Gala this year, and if anything, it made the performances more creative. The show, a showcase of performers taking on musical-theater songs they’d probably never get cast to play, went on the night of September 13 this year in digital form, with pre-recorded videos, including the above reinterpretation of Dear Evan Hansen’s “You Will Be Found” by Ingrid Michaelson and Lauren Ridloff, with Michaelson singing and Ridloff, who is deaf, signing in ASL.
The idea for the pairing came from Bernard Telsey, renowned theater casting director and MCC co-artistic director, who reached out to Michaelson and Ridloff with an idea to collaborate on a song together. Michaelson had done Broadway before with The Great Comet and is currently working on a Notebook musical with Telsey, but never a Miscast performance, and went back and forth on song ideas, before settling on “You Will Be Found,” being a fan of Dear Evan Hansen and wanting to get to sing the song in a public forum. Ridloff, whom Telsey cast in her breakout performance in Children of a Lesser God (she’ll also soon appear as a superhero in Marvel’s The Eternals), had never seen Dear Evan Hansen, and only had passing familiarity with the song. “I didn’t know the words, tempo or even what kind of emotion, mood or tone, or how it was done on Broadway,” Ridloff told Vulture, as translated through an interpreter.
Michaelson recorded a track of her performance first, trying to create a baseline that was simple and direct, “a clean slate for Lauren to paint on, if that makes sense,” she said. Then, Ridloff developed her own interpretation of the lyrics, using the interpretative possibilities of ASL to her advantage. The phrase “you will be found,” for instance, can be depicted in many different ways, depending on how you interpret the idea of “being found,” and how you use embodied movements to differentiate “you” and “I.” “If you did it literally and signed the exact English words, it loses the depth and complexity of meaning. Using the repetition of the lyrics in the song, I wanted to present different figurative meanings in ASL that the line evokes,” Ridloff said. “I knew that I wanted to have artistic control and they gave me that freedom. I could create my own translation and find ways to make it resonant in my language.”
For the video, directed by Scott Galina, Michaelson and Ridloff appear in a split screen, with Lauren given more of the screen. “It became a perfect illustration of the difference between equality and equity,” Galina said. “When we gave each of them the same amount of space, Lauren’s hands would frequently move out of the smaller frame and we were losing what she was signing. Ingrid, on the other hand, had more space than she really needed.” The performance as a whole emphasizes a collaboration that Ridloff dubbed “something not perfectly equal and not perfectly unequal,” a trade between multiple imperfect forms of communication. Ridloff takes over the song for a solo in the second chorus, and then the performers come together at the end. “One of the most interesting parts came when we all were discussing what Lauren and Ingrid were going to sign in unison at the end,” Telsey told Vulture. “Lauren sent us all a video of the different ways she translated the line ‘you will be found,’ including ‘You…someone will see,’ ‘You…someone will notice,’ and ‘You … someone will understand,’ before Lauren and Ingrid settled on ‘You … someone will love,’ which I think is just beautiful.”
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