"Switched at Birth" star Daniel Durant brings what comes naturally to CSS ASL students

By KBJR News 1

March 21, 2014 Updated Mar 21, 2014 at 10:27 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - 24 year old Michigander by birth and graduate of Marshall High School in Duluth, Daniel Durant has made a name for himself as Matthew in the ABC TV series Switched at Birth.

Durant is also playing the lead role of Charlie in Deaf West Theatres' production of "Flowers for Algernon."

But on Friday, the deaf actor set his sights on St. Scholastica, in Duluth, with a visit to the Deaf Culture and American Sign Language Club.

"So, being involved in 'Flowers for Algernon,' before our production of that there was a... poetic section that I've used to have them help work on that," signed Durant as his interpreter Doug Bowen-Bailey spoke for him, "so that I can give them some feedback on how to improve their expressions, and using American Sign Language."

The students in the ASL Club are learning the language, but Durant says they're learning much more than vocabulary.

Being deaf at birth, Durant says the facial expressions that come with speaking his native language aren't typically picked up by those new to ASL Being a professional actor, Durant says teaching that emotion just comes naturally for him.

The star says he's come a long way from being looked at as disabled in the past.

"But now that I'm on television, it just shows that deaf people can do anything," said Durant. "A deaf person is just the same as anyone else. It's just that we have a different language and a different culture—that's it. But everything else is there," he added, smiling.

ASL and Deaf Culture Instructor Monica Marciniak says she wants her students to understand the poetry of the language, and to appreciate Durant's ability to make ASL beautiful.

"And how beautiful the language is with the expression, and the body language," said Marciniak as the workshop continued behind her, "and everything that comes together."

After Friday, Durant will head back to his current home in Los Angeles.
But L.A hasn't made him feel any less of a Duluthian, even if that means being recognized for the star he has become.

"I just notice, especially in the deaf community, that people want to meet me and that they feel like I'm a role model in the deaf community," laughed Durant, "and that's great. That's a great experience."

Durant is new to the world of teaching aspiring ASL students, and deaf actors. But he says he plans to continue with touring schools in the hopes that others like him will be inspired to find their voice on stage.

Billy Wagness
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