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Thousands watch Burbank native sign ‘Hamilton’ hit

Sarah Tubert

Burbank native Sarah Tubert has caught the attention of thousands of people after her American Sign Language cover the of Broadway song “Alexander Hamilton” went viral.

(Courtesy of Sarah Tubert)

A Burbank native is trying to show others that there is beauty and emotion within American Sign Language.

Sarah Tubert, 23, a graduate of the Burbank High School, had always enjoyed covering songs in ASL for her friends and family. Earlier this month, she was encouraged to record one of those performances, a cover of the song “Alexander Hamilton” from the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

“That song completely spoke to me,” said Tubert, who is completely fluent in spoken English and American Sign Language. “The beat, the rhythm, the rap and the words — everything about it made me want to cover this song.”

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When Tubert was 3 years old, she was misdiagnosed with mastoiditis, an infection that can be fatal in younger children. During an emergency surgery, a nerve was accidentally severed, permanently paralyzing the right side of her face and taking away most of her hearing.

She first learned ASL at Burbank’s Washington Elementary School in its deaf and hard-of-hearing program. Tubert would later attend Gallaudet University, a private university in Washington, D.C., for deaf education.

After about a week of figuring out the best way to translate the song in ASL and another week to memorize it, her father, actor Marcelo Tubert, posted the video on his Facebook page on Sept. 16 and the video started making its way around the Internet.

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“I just remember after about an hour later, it got about 1,000 views, and I was so excited,” Sarah Tubert said. “But then it kind of just blew up after that.”

As of Thursday, the video has tallied more than 693,000 views and has been shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook. The passionate four-minute interpretation of the hit Broadway song has even caught the attention of Marlee Matlin, an Academy Award-winning deaf actress, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton.”

“I lost it,” Sarah Tubert said. “I could not believe that he saw it. I’m a little girl from Burbank … I can’t tell you how surreal this is. I did not expect all of this to happen.”

Sarah Tubert, who recently won a gold medal with the U.S. women’s deaf volleyball team at the World Deaf Championships this summer, said translating “Alexander Hamilton” or any song in ASL is not an easy task.

While she can literally translate every word in the song, she believes doing so makes the track lose its meaning and emotion, adding that “Alexander Hamilton” was the hardest song she has ever covered.

“My challenge was trying to find the balance of making sure that people understand what the words mean, along with what the meaning behind the words are,” Sarah Tubert said. “I was trying to figure out how the hearing community would be able to understand what I’m saying and also the deaf community understanding what I’m saying.”

With help from her colleagues at the National Center on Deafness at California State University, Northridge, where she works, Sarah Tubert was able to find the right way to translate the song without losing its soul.

“We have such a great resource center here that it’s easy to talk to people and have an open discussion on what works and doesn’t work,” she said.

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Though it was nice to see that her video was seen by thousands of people, Sarah Tubert said she wants to show the significance of ASL.

“I want to educate people, the hearing community especially, how beautiful and important it is to keep ASL and the deaf community alive,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful and vibrant culture. I just want to show people what it’s all about.”

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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