Thursday, June 02, 2011

Technology Helps Deaf and Blind Experience Broadway Theater

A couple of years ago, I flew Mom in to NYC for a stay with me and took her to see her first Broadway Show, Superior Donuts, starring Michael McKean. I selected this play, instead of any of the long-running, sure-fire hits because it was to be Closed Captioned. In fact, it was the only show offering the service the week my mother happened to be in town, so really, I had no other choice. Luckily, it was a good play with a bonafide star whom my mother would be happy to see, but I was shocked that the pickings were so slim. Really, Broadway? You spend millions on a show and you can't manage to caption shows more often than once in a blue moon?

I took this frustration and used it as an opportunity to instill change at the now shuttered Comix, the comedy nightclub for which I booked, produced and promoted shows. After helping one show benefiting a Deaf charity with a captionist for their live comedy event, I saw just how easy and relatively affordable it was to do so on a regular basis. I had plans to have at least one show a week be captioned and calculated that I would offset the costs after selling just a few tickets. Only a  few. Unfortunately, Comix closed before it could happen, but the lesson was learned: it really isn't that hard to accommodate the deaf and hard of hearing. With all the amazing technology today, it boggles the mind that an affordable, consistent solution hasn't been found for theaters, both cinematic and live.

Ask any actor who has performed live theater as I did for many years, Sunday matinees could always use some Closed Captioning! Those early afternoon shows are notorious for being filled with senior citizens who unknowingly shout into their companion's ears, "HUH?! WHAT'D SHE SAY?" as their junky amplifiers borrowed from the box office squeal and squeak.

Now, just two years later since Mom's first Broadway experience, I read the article below about this exciting advancement for four Broadway theaters. While four theaters out of several hundred is a small percentage, it's a start.

Technology Helps Deaf and Blind Experience Broadway Theater - WNYC Culture


ASL Blog said...

Curious - did you take her to see any Broadway plays interpreted by the late famous coda terp, Alan Champion (before he stopped last year due to health reasons)? Even thou, I've not seen any, I was told it was fab. :^) - Amy Shermay Lazzaretti

Kambri Crews said...

No, I'm sorry to say I didn't. In 15 years, I never once had the chance. I heard of his passing and was saddened. From what I've read, I really missed out. I'm sorry the community lost someone like him.