Deafblind Circus, 1969

Film still showing students performing in circus
A color film still showing Perkins students performing in the Deafblind Circus. A caged circus wagon sits in front of an audience. Inside is a student in a lion costume. Another student in a leopard suit sits a top a pile of crates.

Deafblind Circus, is a short, Perkins produced film that documents students and staff of the Perkins Deafblind Department putting on a circus in 1969. The film is 9 minutes long, shot in 16mm, in color and with sound It is part of the series called “The World of Deaf-Blind Children”, which also includes the film “How They Communicate.”

The film was shot behind the Keller-Sullivan Cottage on the Watertown campus. The first deafblind circus occurred in 1967 but this was not filmed. The 1969 performance was open to the public, allowing the students to showcase their abilities to the community. It is described in the 1974 Perkins Annual Report as illustrating the need deafblind children have for social and group activity and was distributed for educational use.

The children made many of the costumes, props and performed in the circus along with the teachers. The 1969 Perkins Annual Report states that the deafblind students talked about this circus for a long time afterward. One deafblind student, Chan Poh Lin wrote a poem about the circus, called “The Circus of 1969”,  which was published in the June 1969 issues of The Lantern. The poem  and editorial note is included below:

The Circus of 1969 

By Chan Poh Lin 

The shouting, laughing, screaming and crying sounded as bells ringing: 

It is heard, it is seen as fairies 

Dancing in the air as moving stars : 

A penny dropped on the child's hand, 

His smile brightened as the sunshine: 

His little thank is always as a reward 

The child's running with a gentle smile. 

It reminds its admirer as nothing so wonderful 

As the world is imagined in its sense : 

Fun is the day as it is 

But it fades away as a faded rose : 

O, day come, o, day come back as it never been a day before: 

There comes the cries as bells ringing forever. 

Please, don't destroy my writing, Dr. Waterhouse, because it takes my whole thought. 

Sincerely yours, 

Poh Lin 

Editor's Note: 

It is noteworthy that Poh Lin hod neither spoken nor heard English before she lost both sight and hearing in Singapore.

Sources:
Department for Deafblind Children.” Perkins School for the Blind Annual Report, 1969,  pp. 10-13. The Internet Archive

Films from the Perkins School for the Blind.” Perkins School for the Blind Annual Report, 1974,  pp. 14. The Internet Archive

The Perkins Deaf-Blind Department Circus.” The Lantern, 1967, vol. 37, no. 1, Sept. 1967, pp. 31. The Internet Archive

The Perkins Film Library.” The Lantern, 1967, vol. 44, no. 2, March. 1975, pp. 12-16. The Internet Archive

Other Resources:
Presenting Perkins, The Films of Robert M. Campbell.Perkins Archives Blog, 2019, Feb. 7