ASL Slam ft. MJ Shahen, Justin "Wormy" Callaway, Verne E. Taylor Jr.,and John Noschese

Tuesday, November 16, 2021 @ 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Free In Person Tkts Watch Online 2021-11-16 7:00 PM 2021-11-16 8:30 PM America/New_York ASL Slam ft. MJ Shahen, Justin "Wormy" Callaway, Verne E. Taylor Jr.,and John Noschese 40 W. North Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212 Alphabet City

There are two ways to watch the program: in-person at our venue Alphabet City or live-streamed online.

Please note the in-house restaurant is closed on Mondays. Please scroll to the bottom to review our Covid-19 safety policies for indoor programs @ Alphabet City, including the  proof of vaccination requirement.




Join us for an evening of performance in ASL (American Sign Language)! City of Asylum presents ASL Slam in collaboration with Mj Shahen, our inaugural ASL Poet Laureate of Allegheny County. During this evening of poetry and storytelling, we invite Deaf and hearing audience members to enjoy creative free expression in ASL and celebrate the culmination of Mj’s term as ASL Poet Laureate. 

Artists will perform short pieces in ASL, first without voice interpretation and then again with voice interpretation, followed by audience Q&A. 

“Deaf people are not disabled or impaired; we are a linguistic minority. ASL poetry is a visual literary form that has evolved from the art of sign language storytelling. It is signed performance poetry using the conventions of repetition, rhythm, and meter to construct linguistic patterns that add emphasis, meaning, and structure to word forms.”

–Mj Shahen

ASL interpretation will be provided at the registration counter and during the performance and audience Q&A. 


Featured artists:

Mj Shahen was born Deaf to hearing parents who used American Sign Language (ASL). She is an ASL Poet, ABC storyteller, teacher, and advocate. Mj worked for years as a counselor and trainer for Deafblind and Deaf individuals with multiple intellectual disabilities. She then joined the Peace Corps Program and lived in Kenya where she worked as a Special Education teacher of Deaf children with other disabilities like blindness, learning disabilities, and autism. Mj is currently an ASL Coordinator and Adjunct Instructor at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) where she has worked for many years.


Justin Callaway, as his alter-ego “Wormy”, played a starring role with ICEWORM, a Sacramento Deaf comedy group, from 2000 to 2006. Wormy performed on Freedom Cruise 2007 with a 3,995 passenger audience. He was featured in a 2008 Pepsi Superbowl Commercial, and he performed at the 2015 ASL Slam in New York City. He has taught a Deaf Drama and Performance Camp in Missouri and at the NYC Deaf Theater’s Storytelling and Performance Children’s Program. In 2018, he attended the Gallaudet special training workshop for Deaf Actors of Color. Since 2015, Mr. Callaway has performed and trained in Theatrical Clown Technique and synthesized it with American Sign Language. Using this method, he has instructed both teenagers and adults who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing through workshops sponsored by The Short Center Repertory. Mr. Callaway is currently affiliated as both actor and filmmaker with productions, organizations devoted to training, and bringing performance opportunities in stage and film to actors from the DHOH community.

Verne E. Taylor, Jr. is a sixth-generation Deaf individual and was born and raised in a Deaf family. He has taught ASL, Deaf Culture, Fingerspelling, Numbers, and Deaf History for 26 years. He is also a Deaf interpreter. Verne has performed as a storyteller at schools for Deaf children, as well as at Deaf events. He attended the National Association of the Deaf’s ASL Idol contest and won first place at Ohio ASL Idol. Verne has traveled and performed Pantomime and storytelling in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia at Deaf

John Noschese was born Deaf and has been involved with the Deaf community for over 40 years. His involvement includes serving as the Deaf Club’s Vice President, the Parents’ Organization President, the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf’s Alumni President, and participating in several different organizations. John is an advocate for the Deaf and has advocated for Deaf Education. He is also well-known for his performance skills, whether he is on or off the stage. He is married to his middle school sweetheart, who is also Deaf. They have three Deaf children.

Covid-19 policies for indoor programs [at Alphabet City] 

  • To keep our audience safe, we will require proof of vaccination (physical card or photo) to attend all events at Alphabet City.
  • There will be special accommodations for children under 12 and people with medical conditions or religious beliefs preventing them from being vaccinated. These audience members will be asked to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the performance start time, or a negative COVID-19 antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time.
  • All guests will be required to wear masks.
  • Audience size will be limited to 60% total capacity


City of Asylum’s project All Pittsburghers are Poets is supported in part by the taxpayers of Allegheny County through a RADical ImPAct grant from the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD). RAD works here.

Event Details

November 16, 2021 @ 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
40 W. North Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212

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