So I met a famous actor, big deal

I was more excited that I got to practice my sign language

Back in February, I had the opportunity to go see a play called “Tribes.” My sister had gotten free tickets and had invited me to go with her. One of her favorite actors, Mitch Pileggi, was in it and she didn’t want to go alone. I was all for it, but I went for a different reason.

Let me explain: “Tribes” is a play about a deaf man who’s family doesn’t sign, so he never learned sign language either. Later he meets a woman who is going deaf, and she teaches him to sign.

I am currently learning American Sign Language myself here at UT, and thought that it would be a great experience. I wanted to see if maybe I could understand what was being signed (I’m proud to say I understood almost everything.)

They play itself was great, the sign language was flawless, I loved it and recommend it to everyone, but the best part of the night for me was after the actors got off stage and the house lights came back up. We were invited to look at the set and meet the actors. The set was fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but getting to meet the cast was the highlight of the evening. I can remember it as though it just happened yesterday.

I saw Pileggi, and told my sister to hurry up and finish looking at the set, so she wouldn’t miss him. While we were waiting our turn to speak to him, and my sister was trying to keep herself from freaking out too much, I was looking for the other actors, specifically Stephen Drabicki, who played the deaf man, because I had heard that he was actually deaf. When I did see him, I got super nervous. I wanted to talk to him, but I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to say, or that my signing would be horrible.

While waiting for my sister to calm down, I was able to speak to Drabicki. I asked him in sign if he was deaf, he replied that he was. Then he asked me if I was deaf. To be quite honest I was surprised he asked, but then I remembered that the first thing I did was sign, so it made perfect sense for him to ask me that question.

We made small talk, he asked me if I enjoyed the play, if I was in school, where I was learning sign language and why. Throughout the whole conversation, I was smiling, and my replies were shaky because I was so nervous. All the while my sister was standing back just watching, along with Pileggi.

(L-R) My sister Malyssa, Mitch Pileggi, Stephen Drabicki

Inside my mind, I was screaming. I had never had a conversation with someone who was deaf, and to be able to say that my first signing conversation was with an actor makes me extremely happy. Drabicki told me that I was doing very well for a beginner. That comment alone almost had me in tears. I was so excited. I could have cared less about Pileggi. Sure he was cool and all, he was in shows like “Sons of Anarchy,” “Supernatural,” and “X-Files” but in my mind he had nothing on the guy who I was talking with.

After we finished talking to both actors, we took pictures with them, and they gave us hugs. By this time I was crying, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I was too happy.

I reminisce on that night often, and it still has the ability to make me smile and tear up. It feels a bit unreal, almost like a dream, but then I have pictures as proof that it was reality. I hope that maybe our paths may cross again, and by then maybe my sign language will be better, and I can have another conversation with that great actor.

Myself, Pileggi, Drabicki

UT Austin