What is Light Flashes? How One Woman Revolutionized Deaf Improv

What is Light Flashes?

Imagine it is the year 1993 and sitting in a theater with the lights dimming just a bit, increasing the anticipation of the show. The spotlight moves across the red curtains and one by one, the Deaf actors step onto the stage. The actors sign large and crisply, introducing their troupe names. Next, their director steps onto the stage and introduces the group name along with her own: Light Flashes and Vikee Waltrip.

Light Flashes in Los Angeles, CA 1993-1997

Light Flashes ran from 1993 to 1997 and was the first professional Deaf improv group that the acting world had seen. With shows at the Port Hueneme Naval Base, CalState University Northridge, and UCLA, they shared the laughs with soldiers, students, and communities. Light Flashes was lauded by various news media, including LA TIMES, as a show with its own unique brand of humor in their improv sets.

Light Flashes flyer art

The Art of Improv

Improv is a style of theater where the actors are given a prompt and they have to take on a unique character and act out the scene in the prompt. It requires creativity and clever thinking on the spot, as there is no time to prep for the character. The time restraint and speed of performances are the source of improv’s entertainment.

Deaf improv is unique on its own in several ways. Without sound cues, the deaf actors have to keep their eyes open and think three steps ahead. On top of that, actors have to be professional with strong work ethics and show up consistently for rehearsals and discussion of ideas for shows. Light Flashes met the criteria and as a group they prided themselves on their clean, crisp signing: their lines were visible all the way to the audience in the back row.

All in all, they were professionals both in and out of the spotlights.

Like every group and business, Light Flashes had a leader running the show: Vikee Waltrip.

The Businesswoman Behind Light Flashes

With her moxie, Vikee Waltrip is successfully an actress, comedian, director, manager, agent, and promoter. She is an exuberant personality with a knack for business. Her passion lent to her incredible work ethic and professionalism, transforming her into an all-embracing show woman:

That time everyone had a fax machine, so I got a fax machine and communicated with theater owners, agents, and sponsors!

-Vikee Waltrip

Waltrip has always felt the call to be on stage.

National Theater of the Deaf at the Great Wall, China in 1986.
Vikee Waltrip- 4th from right

Seizing Opportunity

Waltrip’s theater goals as an adult were clarified by her childhood denegerative hearing. Her hearing loss had quickly led to her American Sign Language acquisition and Waltrip became the only one in her family who knew Sign Language. By combining oralism and gestural communication, Waltrip developed deeper interest in acting.

One day driving home from work, she passed an acting school. In that moment Waltrip decided it was time to pursue the art professionally. After studying acting and learning the business behind the scenes, Light Flashes was born.

Light Flashes’ Curtain Call and Revival

In 1997, Light Flashes dispersed as its members left for various reasons. Waltrip gradually found herself the only member left and she packed up with the expectations of reviving Light Flashes again.

That time is now; Light Flashes is being revived through workshops hosted by Waltrip and her producer Bonnie Faye Gibson-Brydon. Their workshops and courses focus on what Deaf improv means and how to work within the format to create a unique style. Here, Waltrip shares her vision for Deaf improv:

The ultimate goal is to push American Sign Language past its creative limits and into an art form itself.

-Vikee Waltrip

Want to get involved? Here’s how

Waltrip continues her work by hosting workshops and visiting schools to imprint this simple and inspiring concept, sparking creativity.

Her next workshop with producer and fellow mentor Bonnie Faye Gibson-Brydon, Adventure in Laughter, is on Saturday, April 6, 2019 in Los Angeles. Sign-ups are open now:

View Event Page here

View the PDF Flyer here

The workshop is aimed at serious deaf actors, interpreters, and CDIs. College students may recieve 0.6 CEUs upon completion.

Lunch will be provided along with coffee and tea. Don’t miss the opportunity to see Vikee Waltrip in action!

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