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Edgewater Theaters Produce Work for the Visually Impaired: Steep’s “The Vandal”

Vandal1I am a blind woman who is well past the age to join AARP. Going to movies meant one needed to be told what was happening on the screen. The same, until recently, occurred with live theater.  Now one only needs to visit Edgewater theaters such as Raven Theatre on Clark or Steep Theatre on Berwyn to participate in a touch tour.

So what is a touch tour and what is accessible theater anyway? I recently had the pleasure of attending a performance of The Vandal at Steep with a sighted friend. She and I were warmly welcomed. She reported that the lobby was brightly and warmly painted. Because she has arthritis and other back problems, she was pleased with the comfort of lobby and house seating. For her that was accessibility as it enhanced her appreciation and enjoyment of the theater experience. Brad Akin, access coordinator, escorted us into the house before the public was admitted. He not only described the layout of the 53 seat theater but also walked around the stage with me and let me feel the simple props. There are three actors in The Vandal. Each came out, introduced him/herself including giving a physical description of themselves and their costumes, discussed the character they would represent and mentioned when they would first appear in the performance. I was also introduced to Martin, an experienced narrator, who described the performance for me as the play was being performed; I could hear his description through a headset–no more disturbing anyone around me while the performance was narrated. From beginning to end, I could appreciate, as much as my sighted patrons could, the description of the house, information in the program, who entered and left the set and even the final curtain call.

Brad explained that his first encounter with a touch tour and an audio described performance, also done by Martin, was at Steppin Wolf Theater. “I could see how much more the blind and visually impaired audience got out of the performance. They could get the jokes that they could not have gotten without the description. I realized it made a lot of sense, was really not that difficult and thought we could do it at Steep, too. We would like to also have performances signed for the deaf and hard of hearing and have access for patrons with physical disabilities.”

The Vandal which runs until November 8 and is the first performance of Steep’s 14th season takes place, for the most part,  at a bus stop. How fitting for it to be performed just a few steps from the Berwyn Red Line station–one could occasionally hear and feel the rumble of the train. And you know, if you take that train as many of us do,  that the bus stop for the Foster 92 bus is within steps as well. I can remember  having just missed that bus on a freezing night and chatting with another lone passenger while waiting for that next bus like the performers did in The Vandal, but we won’t tell their story. You have to visit Steep for that.

It is common for a touch tour and audio description to be arranged in advance and done only once per performance run. I cannot tell you enough how much this enhances the theater experience so if you or someone you know would like more information about access, contact access@steeptheatre.com

And go out to enjoy the show! It is well worth the trip even if you have to wait for the bus when the play is over.

 

 


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