Tyrone Giordano '94: Finding His Voice on Stage

by Ted Jou '99

After graduating from the Blair Magnet twenty years ago, Tyrone Giordano '94 went to Gallaudet University, a "life-changing experience" after being a "terribly shy kid." He never planned on a career in theatre, but he fell into it "completely by accident" after college. He says "[i]t's cliché, I know, but it’s true: I didn’t choose theatre—theatre chose me."

Giordano remembers that in high school, he would "literally shake standing in front of a small group to present." He has now played in front of thousands, but he admits that "my heart races every single time I get on that stage, no matter the size of the audience." If there was anything from Blair that helped prepare him for acting, he thinks "it may have been the cross-pollination between the CAP and Magnet programs," resulting in "brains and beauty, style and substance." Thinking back on his high school experience, Giordano worries that with so much focus on STEM education, we may be scaling back too much on the arts: "[W]e sorely need the arts to unify our knowledge and understanding, to provide vision and guidance. Perhaps a similar cross-pollination between STEM and the arts can lead to a more useful STEAM. You can’t do much with a stem alone, except stir a drink, maybe."

Although he "felt out of place" in the Magnet Program, Giordano says: "I also felt very much like I belonged—there was a kinship there that I didn’t have growing up at my other schools." He has warm memories of C and D Hall in the old Blair on Wayne Ave.: "Hanging out after school (after 8th period, no less), buying stuff from Ertters Market right before riding the late bus home. Intramural floor hockey. Lunchtimes in the central courtyard, teaching friends sign language and yukking it up. Passing notes in class, and it was okay because the teachers understood that my being deaf necessitated it (or maybe they just gave me a pass)." His favorite class experiences were the hands-on experiences in biology, chemistry and R&E. He remembers Ms. George's Marine Biology class and Wallops Island as "fantastic," and Ms. Wiz as "so kind." He wishes he had been a little more assertive in pursuing computer programming: "I was deathly afraid of C++ (both the language and getting a similar grade in that particular class)."

Thanks to his IEP coordinator, Micky Cokely, Giordano had "the best ASL interpreters that Montgomery offered," but he remembers high school being "tough—I didn’t realize how much I had been missing until I arrived at Gallaudet." Looking back, he says that "making the choice to go to Gallaudet saved my life. Part of me wishes I had that life-changing experience at Gallaudet before going to the Magnet, and yet, at the same time, the Magnet also changed my life and shaped me profoundly before I’d arrived at Gallaudet." One thing that has stayed with Giordano from the Magnet is the engineering mindset: "I love working with my hands, especially in cooperation with my mind and imagination. But that pretty much describes the theatre, so I guess I’m not in the wrong place."

Giordano's first stage role was as a member of the sign-language chorus in The Miracle Worker at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. He then enrolled in Deaf West Theatre's summer school program in 2001, and he earned the lead role of Huckleberry Finn in Deaf West's production of Big River, which won many awards as it played in Los Angeles's Mark Taper Forum, on Broadway, on a national tour, and in Tokyo. In 2005, Giordano made his film debut in A Lot Like Love with Amanda Peet and Ashton Kucher, and then in a larger role in The Family Stone, where he played the son of Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson, with siblings Luke Wilson, Dermot Mulroney, and Rachel McAdams. Giordano had several other movie roles (imdb) and returned to Deaf West Theatre to play the lead role in Pippin in 2009. He is now an an adjunct professor at the ASL and Deaf Studies department at Gallaudet "with my eye on eventually teaching in Theatre Arts." He is currently working as the ASL and Deaf Culture consultant for The Studio Theatre's Tribes in Washington, DC.

Working in many different roles in the theatre world, Giordano gets his creative fix by acting, teaching, translating sign language, writing, directing, and producing. He believes that "[t]he most interesting work I have done is all of the work that goes on before anyone ever sets eyes on it." He loves the "ground-level work" of rehearsal, translation, and discussion: "All of those little actions and pieces go together into that culminating moment, and while sometimes you get lost in the minutiae leading up to there, it’s supremely satisfying to see all of it connect when you actually perform the work." In an ongoing theatre production, he says "[i]t’s even better when you get to do it again and again every night, and you make little adjustments here and there, constantly honing your craft. It’s thrilling, for sure."