John McGinty Encourages Us to Open Our Hearts & Listen

It’s exciting when Broadway shows find innovative ways to convey a concept. Children of a Lesser God addresses how we communicate with each other and the new revival will push the boundaries with its unique storytelling. Deaf actor, John McGinty will be playing Orin Dennis in the show. We asked him why this show is so relevant right now and what audiences can expect to see.

What was your first exposure to Broadway and musical theater, and how did it influence you?
When I was six or seven, I went to London to see Phantom of the Opera with my grandma. At that time, there was no interpreters nor was the show captioned. But, I was captivated by the set design, acting, etc… and how simple the story is. It was when my light bulb went off and I was like, “I have to be on on stage somehow.”

What has been your favorite part of the rehearsal process for Children of a Lesser God?
Everyday, I learn new things from everyone in the room. It is quite exciting to witness the new discovery we make and how we can dig deeper to find the real message of the play.

What is the best part about doing Children of a Lesser God?
To be on a Broadway stage with the most amazing and hard working group of actors. I am excited to tell and share a story about “finding your voice” in a time when it matters so much.

What are you most excited for the audience to see and why do you think this story is so important?
It is more than just a love story. It is about humanity and how to be connected with another person regardless of who we are. I think people need to come see the story because it will give a fresh perspective of what listening really is. Not by listening with their eyes or their ears, but with an open heart, mind and soul. Just to sit there and feel entranced in that world. It is imperative to have an open heart and mind in order to make the world a better place.

Seeing the hearing and the deaf people come together, it’s not about who is right and who is wrong and what you would do in their shoes, but when you leave the theater, have that discussion, continue it on after the performance. I think the production is really applicable to life and it’s the perfect story to show that. We really have a fantastic director, team and cast. I am really excited.

You have done film, television and theatre. Do you prefer one medium to another?
I enjoy both for many different reasons, but I would like to explore more film/tv right now.

How did you get involved in acting?
My drama teacher from my middle school begged me to audition for their show. After a week of hesitation, I thought… why not? After I landed a part, rehearsed and performed, I discovered that I found a new “home” and my acting bug.

Photo Credit: Charr Crail/Kevin Graft

Do you have a favorite memory from The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
The people I worked with and the trust I had with the director. Also, I think it is quite exciting to break the barrier and know that other deaf talent will have the chance to play Quasimodo. It is like I did my job right by creating new opportunities for deaf talent, which is what I have always wanted to do since day one.

I have also enjoyed doing Quasimodo because I think people kind of have a picture of what Quasimodo is like. Of course, the first thing they think of is the physical appearance, the deformation, the actual hunchback, the facial disfiguration – but I’m not interested in showing that perspective. I’m more interested in showing the inner struggle. What does it actually feel like to be an outcast?

Of course, being deaf alone in the hearing world, that makes one very desperate for communication – I could showcase that. The human desperation for that community, for that love. Oftentimes I feel that in John, myself. I feel more an outcast, more isolated, more desperate in that regard. So I wanted to apply that to this character and really bring that to the stage to hopefully show the audience that experience, or that this is what it’s like as a deaf person going through society, where – I shouldn’t use the word bullying, but you can see it on stage, you see how the other characters bully Quasimodo. Think about how that applies to real life, because I know that in schools bullying happens to somebody who’s an outcast like that. But it is so important to visually see Quasimodo as a human being.

What’s another show you would like to have ASL incorporated into?
I think I would like to see something ORIGINAL that is written by deaf talents.

What is the best part about being on Broadway and working in New York?
It’s a really huge honor to be part of the family of the Broadway production and just be in a very specific community and I feel like it’s home. I don’t think Broadway is the highest caliber level, but I just feel like it’s a sense of community and a sense of home that I have there. To have different artists coming together and creating something fresh, I think that’s really exciting, and again, I am just really honored to be part of the journey.

What is your favorite thing about New York?
Central Park. I love Central Park. It’s beautiful. Sometimes it can be so busy in the city area and there is no place you feel like you can escape, but you just go there – and of course now it’s too cold, but in the springtime and the summer, I always go to Central Park. I just sit in the grass and lay out, and let go. Let go of the world. I just watch the people as they walk by.

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