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Actress Michelle Banks – A Deaf Actress Making Her Mark On the Hearing World

“Veteran actress Michelle Banks, E-’90, directs the solo performance of Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant in Look Through My Eyes, onstage at the Baltimore Theatre Project, March 10-13, 2016. Look Through My Eyes chronicles O’Bryant’s struggles and opens a dialogue about diversity, inclusiveness, and acceptance.

It is the latest venture in what has already been a journey of theatrical accomplishments for Banks.

A native of Washington, D.C., Banks knew from a young age that she wanted to become an actress. Banks remembers watching actress Cicely Tyson in Sounder and being mesmerized by her Oscar-nominated performance. “”I wanted to become like her!”” Banks said in an interview for The Pearls.

After one year at Gallaudet, Banks decided to pursue an acting career in New York City. In 1987 she transferred to the State University of New York (SUNY) and became the first deaf student in SUNY’s Drama Studies program. Following her graduation in 1990, Banks founded the Onyx Theatre Company to create a stage for both herself and other deaf women of color. This theatre was in operation for 11 years and earned Banks the Cultural Enrichment Award from Gallaudet and the Distinguished Service Award from the New York Deaf Theatre.

After a small role in the movie Malcolm X, Banks starred in the critically acclaimed independent movie Compensation. She also appeared in a YAHOO! commercial, and a number of television roles, including ABC’s 10-8, Showtime’s Soul Food, UPN’s Girlfriends, and Lifetime’s Strong Medicine.

Banks was able finance an extension of her one-woman show, Reflections of a Black Deaf Woman, after receiving the Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship in 2002. This original production appeared on prominent stages around the country to rave reviews. Other acting credits to Banks’s name include The C.A. Lyons Project with Alliance Theatre, Story Theatre with Open Circle Theatre, Big River at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Calif. and Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., and For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf at the Los Angeles’s Globe Playhouse. In 2008, Banks was chosen as one of13 actors for NYC’s ABC Diversity Talent Showcase.

Look Through My Eyes is part of QuestFest 2016, an international theatre festival featuring visual performance by means of movement, gesture, and digital media. The Theatre Project website says, “”By stripping away the artifice of language, QuestFest builds bridges between disparate communities and cultures.”

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