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California Musical Theatre Announces New Program to Make Shows Come Alive For Patrons Who Are Visually Impaired

Audio Description to Begin at Broadway Sacramento Production of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL at Community Center Theater

For the first time, due to a program established by California Musical Theatre (CMT), Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento patrons who are blind or visually impaired will be better able to enjoy the musicals they attend at Wells Fargo Pavilion and Community Center Theater, according to Richard Lewis, CMT President & CEO. Select Saturday matinee performances of each Broadway Sacramento and Music Circus production will feature audio description. Patrons with visual impairments will be able to listen to live descriptions of the visual elements of the shows—including sets, costumes and physical action—using ear pieces provided at the theater.

The program came about after members of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) Capitol Chapter, California Council of the Blind, the leading consumer advocacy organization of persons with vision loss in the Sacramento area, approached CMT regarding the status of the program to meet the needs of those in the blind community. California Council of the Blind and the Organization of Macular Friends requested the inclusion of audio description of the visual elements of shows, and continue to actively advise CMT on the development of this program.

CMT, which also offers open captioning as well as performances with sign language interpretation for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, began testing the audio description program for its visually impaired patrons with limited offerings during the Music Circus season. The program will launch during the opening production of the 2013-14 Broadway Sacramento season, Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical. The audio described performance for Priscilla will take place on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2:00 p.m. at Community Center Theater.

“I’m very pleased that we’ll have this program up and running for the first show of our Broadway Sacramento season,” Lewis said. “For both Music Circus and Broadway Sacramento, we want to create an environment where as many theatre-lovers as possible can experience our shows. I’m happy that we’re able to launch a program allowing patrons who are blind or have limited vision the opportunity to enhance their enjoyment of our shows, meeting an important need in that community.”

Gene Lozano, First Vice-President ACB Capitol Chapter of California Council of the Blind, adds, “It is nice to be able to attend professional theater without having to travel to the Bay Area. I no longer have to rely on my wife to describe the scenery, costumes and props, making her experience equally enjoyable.”
Margie Donovan, chair of the Advocacy Committee for the ACB Capitol Chapter, California Council of the Blind, says, “As a person who is totally blind, audio description enables me to enjoy all aspects of what is happening on the stage. Because of the newly established CMT audio description program, I am thrilled that I will be fully experiencing all aspects of live theater performances.”

Jeff Thom, immediate past president of the California Council of the Blind, states: “We are extremely excited about CMT’s long-term commitment to ensuring that its customers who are blind have the full theater-going experience.”

For Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical, in addition to the audio described performance, the show’s Wardrobe Supervisor, Gillian Austin, will lead a costume tactile experience for blind and low vision patrons attending the matinee performance on Saturday, Nov. 9. There will be three costumes included in the experience and patrons will have the opportunity to ask questions as time allows. This presentation will take place in the theatre from 12:30 – 1:00 p.m. At 1:30 p.m. in the theater there will be a Priscilla pre-show talk where the audio describer will talk about the cast, the story, the theater and other information, and also describe some of the costumes not part of the tactile experience.

Following is a list of programs offered by CMT for its Broadway Sacramento shows to help provide accessibility to all patrons:

  • Hearing assistive devices: Hearing assistive devices are available for loan at a table near the box office (L Street entrance). A driver’s license or other form of ID is required for deposit.
  • Sign-interpreted performances: The final Sunday matinee performance of most productions will be interpreted for the deaf and hearing impaired. Please contact the Convention Center Theater Box Office (916-808-5181) or the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office (916-557-1999) for tickets and information.
  • Open captioned performances: The final Friday evening performance of most productions will be open captioned for the deaf and hearing impaired. Please contact the Convention Center Box Office (916-808-5181) or the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office (916-557-1999) for tickets and information. Wicked will be captioned Friday, May 30.
  • Audio described performances: The final Saturday matinee of most performances will be audio described for the blind and visually impaired. Ear pieces for these performances are available for loan at a table near the box office (L Street entrance). Please be sure to reserve an audio receiver at the time of your ticket purchase.
  • Disabled and wheelchair seating: Seating locations in the Community Center Theater for patrons using wheelchairs or with a disability are located on the orchestra, grand tier and second tier levels. Tickets for these seats may be purchased at the Convention Center Theater Box Office or the Wells Fargo Pavilion Box Office.
  • TTY/TDD: TTY for the Convention Center Box Office is (916) 264-7151.

For more information about audio description or any of CMT’s programs for patrons with special needs, contact Barbara Haig, Assisted Arts Coordinator, at 916-446-5880, Ext. 149, or bhaig@californiamusicaltheatre.com. For tickets to described performances or information on upcoming productions, contact the Box Office at 916-557-1999. Be sure to request an audio description ear piece when you purchase your tickets.
For more information about the California Council of the Blind, contact Margie Donovan at Margie.donovan1@yahoo.com.

For information:
Matt Hessburg
(916) 446-5880, ext. 124
mhessburg@californiamusicaltheatre.com