ASL club holds murder mystery gala

Liberty’s American Sign Language Club channeled the prohibition-esque parties on April 18 as it hosted a 1920s Murder Mystery Gala. Attendees happily complied with the Roaring Twenties dress code with feathers, shawls, suspenders, flapper dresses, hats and headbands highlighting their outfits. 

The Montview Ballroom was set up to match with gold and black decor and moody jazz playing. But aside from the music in the background, the gala is perhaps one of the quietest events of any club at Liberty, with attendees being asked to only speak in sign.

 “The ASL Club had hosted a gala for three years in a row, which was put at a halt in the spring of 2020 when COVID-19 hit … (it’s) an event for alum, current students, Deaf Community and faculty to celebrate all they have accomplished while reuniting with one another,” ASL club vice president Jieli Kasprzak said. 

However, the event didn’t occur without unique challenges that ASL’s club leadership had to overcome.

“Many of the club leadership have not attended a gala before, so it was a bit tricky figuring out how to plan a big event while never experiencing one ourselves. While bouncing off ideas during a meeting, we knew we wanted to do something fun. At first, we thought of something like a ‘pop of color,’ which somehow turned into a 1920s theme which later included murder mystery,” Kasprzak said.

The event opened with a warm welcome with all the speakers talking solely in sign language, and translators voicing what they were saying. They recognized Dr. Nicole Thorn, an associate professor of ASL, who is retiring this year. 

Her many accolades and achievements include certifications, multiple awards, her local and international community involvement and the depth of her investment in the ASL program at Liberty. A video created by the students was shown, thanking her for her years of teaching and love.

Throughout the night, animated conversations were held, not with loud voices but with a flurry of hands. The only noises heard were the occasional bursts of laughter as the guests at each table signed back and forth. However, a little into the night, the lights dimmed, and when they came back on, a student screamed – someone had been “murdered.” 

Several people wearing name tags pointed out that they had seen the killer, and they went up to each table to sign to the others what they had seen. The rest of the attendees were then tasked with discovering who the killer was from among those with name tags. 

They continued going around, and another guest was “murdered” before the killer. One of the guests with name tags was finally revealed as the killer after having “shot” someone in front of everyone with a fake gun. 

“I think just seeing all the cool outfits has been fun,” student Natalie Kautzmann said. “They honored Dr. Thorn, and it was really sweet to see the joy and the emotion. It’s a special moment to be part of that.”

As a student learning ASL, the gala helped encourage her to continue her studies. 

“So ASL is tough. It’s a lot harder than it seems,” Kautzmann said. “But when you’re able to build relationships with people through signing, it really draws you in and motivates you to continue to practice signing and this increases your proficiency in the language.” 

President of the ASL Club Grace Forsberg offered a unique perspective on ASL club and its gala as a deaf student at Liberty. 

“It’s huge what’s a possibility for me, but I found why it’s very important for me to participate in it because I want to get all the hearing people and get the (Deaf) community together and get to know each other very well,” Forsberg said. “And of course, I want to get together with everyone to learn and help all the ASL students, the (Deaf) community and here in the (Deaf) community, to keep the ball together to run
ASL … ”

The ASL Club at Liberty holds events frequently, outside of the pandemic’s limitations and has plenty more planned for the upcoming Fall 2022 semester.

Wineman is the B-section copy editor.

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