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Arts NC State to Provide Accessible Showings of Upcoming Productions | Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
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Arts NC State to Provide Accessible Showings of Upcoming Productions

A member program of Arts NC State, University Theatre provides quality theatrical, artistic and practical experiences for the NC State and Triangle communities. This month, University Theatre prepares for its fourth main stage show, HAIRSPRAY, The Broadway Musical, which will run from February 21-25, 2018. On Friday, February 23, 2018 at 7:30 pm, University Theatre will provide an accessible showing of the production with audio descriptions and closed captioning.

Mia Self“It’s a commitment to continuously getting better at treating all people like people,” said Mia Self, the assistant director of acting and directing at University Theatre, on accessibility. “When Thompson Hall was renovated nearly ten years ago, there was an absolute commitment to bring the facilities up to accessibility standards.”

Following renovations in 2009, the Thompson Theatre was renamed Frank Thompson Hall. It seats more than 250 people and contains the Titmus Theatre and the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre.

Thompson Hall was formerly the Thompson Gymnasium, which housed two gyms, an indoor swimming pool and an indoor track. After Reynolds Coliseum became the basketball facility in 1963, the gymnasium was renovated into what houses NC State’s dramatic arts.

Types of Accessibility Services Offered

University Theatre provides easy access for patrons with mobility issues. In addition to accessible seating, the theater offers two other services: audio descriptions and closed captioning.

The theater partners with Arts Access, a non-profit organization founded in Raleigh, to provide audio descriptions for people with blindness or low vision. The patron is given a set of headphones through which someone is describing what is happening onstage during the performance. “They are providing a commentary for the action happening on the stage,” said Self. “Prior to the show they are describing the space. They’re talking about the styles, the textures and the feel of the set. During the show (in between the dialogue), they are filling in the missing pieces of information for that individual so they can fully experience the show.”

For people who are deaf or have hearing loss, the theater offers closed captioning. The captioning is provided through Carolinas Captioning, an organization based in Charlotte. A Skype call allows Carolinas Captioning to hear the audio that the actors use backstage for cues and to keep up with the progression of the show. Patrons are given an iPad, provided by DASA Tech, or they can choose to use a special link on their phones to watch the live captioning.

All spaces are equipped with listening devices that act as an amplifier. The ushers can provide the patrons with these devices so they can increase the volume of the show.

University Theatre is service animal friendly as well. Self said they have seen an increase in service animals at shows. “People with blindness or low vision often need service animals but individuals who need a service animal for support or for other health reasons are also welcome in our spaces now. And University Theatre is talking directly with them to make sure that the individual and their service animals are comfortable and feel welcome.”

“The dialogue with our patrons has been the part that I love most,” said Self, who has been at NC State for four years. “Being inclusive can be a hard thing to do because we want to stay in control in unfamiliar circumstances; oftentimes the safest thing to do is shut down and back away. But, the openhearted thing to do is to stay in those uncomfortable circumstances and say ‘I don’t know what you need, can you talk to me about where you are? Where are we missing the mark and how can we do better?’”

Look for additional accessible offerings of future shows.

Austin Butler is a communications intern in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity. She is a senior majoring in science, technology and society.nter.