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Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Night of Accessible Theatre

Me and Marsha with the theatre entrance seen in the background

Last weekend was my big night out in Chicago with friends I had made through my local hearing loss support group. Julie, Kitty, and I met that afternoon at our group leader Kim's home, and the three of us squeezed into the backseat for a wild drive downtown. Kim's husband is an experienced city driver and can weave in and out of traffic with the best of them. We arrived safely and in record time!

Kim and her husband are season ticket holders while this was the first time for Julie, Kitty, and me. At the theatre they introduced us to two options for captioning. One was to read the words projected on the wall. For this play, they were shown on the wall to our left which meant turning your head back and forth between the action on stage and the script off stage right. The second option was using a portable small screen closed captioning device and lining it up as close as possible to the line of sight with the stage. Julie and I took one of these and positioned it between our seats. Kitty sat somewhere else.

Of the two options, I preferred the writing on the wall. As annoying as it was to have to turn my head, I couldn't stop reading the play! I kept telling myself the volume was loud enough that I could just watch the action on stage but I found myself watching the words nonetheless. It was just so much easier than having to listen and figure out what was said! I didn't like reading the much smaller print on the portable device and its brightness level also bothered me. On the other hand, Julie preferred this captioning option so I was glad we had given it a try.

Along with the script, the captioning included descriptions of the music and sound effects even giving clues to the emotional tenor of the action. Eurydice, the play showing that afternoon, was a modern retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus' descent into Hades to retrieve his dead wife. The play's staging was minimal and there were only seven actors so the music and effects were important to conveying the ideas of the play. What I liked best was how the play portrayed the Greek idea of the underworld as a peaceful place of forgetfulness and sleep.

Not everyone liked the play. Some said it was just weird. Actually the best part of the evening was when we ate dinner at a small restaurant across the street. Our group of five met up with about nine others from the Chicago ALDA (Association for Late Deafened Adults) group. We made one long table by pushing several small tables together. To communicate we used several strategies including lipreading, fingerspelling/signing, repeating, and writing on a pad of paper. It was just like ALDA's motto "whatever works"!

For me it was very inspiring to meet others with the same or even greater communication challenges who are enjoying full social lives and remaining employed. Everyone was very welcoming to Julie, Kitty, and me and hugs were freely exchanged at the end of the evening. I hope to socialize with them again soon.


Karen Putz said...

Sounds like a fun evening! Now if only we could get every movie captioned too...

SpeakUp Librarian said...

It was, Karen! There's an Open Captions Newsletter available through Kerosotes Theatre that lists showtimes for captioned movies. Here's the link if you're interested. Kerosotes is a national theatre chain.