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Newfoundland and Labrador

St. John’s theatre company launches audio description for plays

A man sits in the CBC Radio studio in St. John's.  He wears a black t-shirt with a black cap.
Paul David Power is Artistic Director of Power Productions. The theater company not too long ago launched stay audio description for their exhibits, permitting blind or partially sighted folks to immerse themselves within the theater expertise. (Heather Barrett/CBC)

A St. John’s theater company is launching a service it hopes will make performances extra accessible to people who find themselves blind or partially sighted.

Paul David Power, Artistic Director of Power Productions, has been working to include stay audio description into productions in Newfoundland and Labrador for a while. His dream grew to become a actuality when the company started providing the service this week.

“Obviously, if you’re blind or have low vision during a live performance, you can’t see very well what’s going on on stage,” Power stated.

“[But] They can hear it, so the live audio description in the theater accurately describes to the customer the action that is taking place on stage to couple it with the dialogue they are hearing.

Live audio description in the theater is very different from description on TV or in movies, Power said, because almost every theatrical production differs in small ways. Descriptors sit in the theater and describe the play to the guests, who take the service through a microphone and headphones.

Descriptors also don’t describe emotions in performances, he added. They literally describe what is happening on stage, allowing the listener to infer what is going on from the movements they describe and the dialogue they hear.

A test run of the service took place this week with Power’s Play, Crippledwhere he shared what an opening scene would sound like.

“All you hear could be the sound of the water, of crutches falling into the water. So the audio descriptor would say, you recognize, ‘Character Tony… goes on stage. Character Tony walks in entrance of the water, appears to be like round. Drop one crutch drops the opposite,” Power said.

“It type of attracts that scene in order that by the point the dialogue begins, you’ve got a full concept of ​​what is going on on on stage, simply as seeing visitors are having fun with the present.”

The company conducted a test run with live audio description during a recent performance of Power’s play Crippled. (Submitted by Paul David Power)

Describing live theater takes special training, Power said, because it’s important to focus on what’s happening on stage, not edit. The company works with four descriptors who say each show is a new learning experience.

“They’re type of a performer in their very own proper,” Power said.

“The dialogue can change, the area between the dialogues they’ve within the type of silence to throw in some descriptive phrases and one thing like that may change from evening to nighttime. So it is actually a efficiency for them too. Being a part of a present, realizing the present and with the ability to roll the punches.”

Power said the service has been positively received so far and hopes other companies will use the service to make their shows as accessible as possible.

He said accessibility tools like description or sign language interpretation should not be an afterthought and should be part of the planning once a production goes into development.

“Lots of people consider accessibility or inclusivity on the final minute, you recognize, as a type of last-minute concept,” said Power, who lives with a disability himself.

“If you actually wish to make your present actually inclusive and attain an viewers sector that you have not had previously, take into consideration that whenever you plan your manufacturing and embrace that assist in your manufacturing finances. … It’s a indisputable fact that all of us want to alter the way in which we expect.”

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