The Sensory Program
By now, you’ve probably noticed a little set of headphones next to the performance times of one or two shows on a theater poster around town. Another little set of headphones at the bottom of the poster (acting like an asterisk) says that the noted show or shows are part of The Sensory Program for the Performing Arts for the Visually and Hearing Impaired.
So what, you may well ask, is The Sensory Program for the Performing Arts for the Visually and Hearing Impaired? And with that many words in it’s name, shouldn’t it be self-explanatory?
That second question is one for the ages, and we’re not going to try to tackle it here.
The Sensory Program for the Performing Arts for the Visually and Hearing Impaired, though, is a marvelous combination of technology and a very human love of theater. Through the Sensory Program, fans of live theater who have difficulty hearing or who have any level of visual impairment up to or including total blindness are still able to enjoy the experience of attending a theatrical performance.
On the day of a Sensory Program performance, visually impaired patrons are encouraged to arrive early with a sighted companion. Prior to the show, they are offered a tour of the stage so that they can familiarize themselves with the layout of the set. Following the tour, the principal actors in the show introduce themselves and perform a bit of dialog in their character voices to assist in distinguishing voices during the show.
During the show, both visually and hearing impaired patrons will be provided with a set of headphones that will pick up the actors’ dialogue through the theater’s sound system. The patron will have individual control over the volume of the dialogue.
Additionally, Sensory Program patrons can opt to tune in to a Describer. Describers are Wausau Community Theatre volunteers who are seated in the rear of the theater and describe the action on stage as it is happening. Sensory Program patrons who choose to listen to the Describer will hear the stage dialogue as well as the Describer through their headset.
Describers typically attend a number of dress rehearsals prior to opening night to prepare for describing the setting, costumes and action of the show.
In the spring of 2008, Wausau Community Theatre launched The Sensory Program at it’s presentation of Arsenic and Old Lace. Since then, WCT has offered at least one Sensory Program presentation during every show it has produced. Additionally, the Sensory Program has been offered at Mosinee School District shows, DC Everest School District shows, and others. For a small fee, WCT can provide all necessary equipment and a trained Describer for any theatrical presentation in the Wausau area.
For information on offering the Sensory Program for the Performing Arts for the Visually and Hearing Impaired at your production or on volunteering to become a Describer, contact Wausau Community Theater at 715-359-3972 during normal business hours.