What is Audio Description?
Audio Description involves the accessibility of the visual images of theater, television, movies, and other art forms for people who are blind, have low vision, or otherwise have difficulty with vision. It is a narration (provided at no additional charge to the patron) that attempts to describe what sighted people take in through their eyes. This includes sets, costumes, facial expression and sight gags. The describer is not allowed to speak over the dialogue so the content of the production is not lost.
Formerly, people who could benefit from audio description could only experience this information through the whispered asides from a sighted companion.
In theaters, Audio Description is provided by a trained Audio Describer who transmits the descriptions from somewhere in the theater, often using a court stenographer’s mask. The patron hears the description via an earpiece or earphones connected to a tiny receiver.
Who Must Provide Audio Description?
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act includes an obligation for “effective communication” for individuals with sensory disabilities. Municipal programs and businesses are under federal requirement to ensure that their programs, services, and activities are communicated to individuals with sensory disabilities as effectively as they are to individuals without sensory disabilities. Audio Description is an accepted “auxiliary aid or service” under the definition. If an individual with a sensory disability requests Audio Description, the municipality or business would have to provide it unless they can prove to advocates, and possibly to the US Department of Justice, that doing so would be an undue financial or administrative burden or that it would fundamentally alter the nature of the event.
How to Find an Audio Describer
Today, many large cities have organizations with trained Audio Describers who offer their services to local theater groups and others.
Here is the current schedule of shows available:
Ovens Auditorium – December 17, 2017
Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, LES MISÉRABLES tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption – a timeless testament to the survival of the human spirit. Featuring the thrilling score, this epic and uplifting story has become one of the most celebrated musicals in theatrical history.
School of Rock
Ovens Auditorium – January 14, 2018
Based on the hit film, this hilarious new musical follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star posing as a substitute teacher who turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band. This high-octane smash features 14 new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber, all the original songs from the movie and musical theaters first-ever kids rock band playing their instruments live on stage.
The Phantom of the Opera
Belk Theater – January 21, 2018
Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will return to Charlotte as part of a brand new North American Tour. Critics are raving that this breathtaking production is “bigger and better than ever before” and features a brilliant new scenic design by Paul Brown, original costume design by Maria Bjornson, lighting design by Paule Constable, new choreography by Scott Ambler, and new staging by director Laurence Connor. The production boasts many exciting special effects including the show’s legendary chandelier. The beloved story and thrilling score will be performed by a cost and orchestra of 52, making this PHANTOM one of the largest productions now on tour.
Belk Theater – March 18, 2018
WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Ovens Auditorium – April 22, 2018
BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation.
Knight Theater – May 6, 2018
Stephen Karam’s THE HUMANS is an uproarious, hopeful, and heartbreaking play that takes place over the course of a family dinner on Thanksgiving. Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake has brought his Pennsylvania family to celebrate and give thanks at his D\daughter’s apartment in Lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside the ramshackle pre-war duplex and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the Blake clan’s deepest fears and greatest follies are laid bare.
Belk Theater – May 13, 2018
Sit in the ’90s – the 1590s – this hilarious smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers who are desperate to write their own hit play while the “rock star” Shakespeare keeps getting all the hits. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first MUSICAL! With its heart on its ruffled sleeve and sequins in its soul, SOMETHING ROTTEN! is “The Producers” + “Spamalot” + “The Book of Mormon”. Squared!
Belk Theater – July 1, 2018
Inspired by a real event, this original musical tells a sweeping tale of love and redemption set against the rich backdrop of the American South in the 1920s and ’40s. Propelled by an ensemble of onstage musicians and dancers, the story unfolds as a rich tapestry of deep emotion, beautiful melodies and powerfully moving performances.
The Color Purple
Belk Theater – July 15, 2018
With a soul-raising score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues, THE COLOR PURPLE gives an exhilarating new spirit to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story. Don’t miss this stunning re-imagining of an epic story about a young woman’s journey to love and triumph in the American South. It’s the musical sensation that New York Magazine calls “one of the greatest revivals ever.”
The Book of Mormon
Belk Theater – July 29, 2018
This outrageous musical comedy follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries, sent halfway across the world to spread the Good Word. Now with standing room only productions in London, on Broadway, and across North America, THE BOOK OF MORMON has truly become an international sensation. Contains explicit language.
The Lion King
Belk Theater – August 26, 2018
Giraffes strut. Birds swoop. Gazelles leap. The entire Serengeti comes to life as never before. And as the music soars, Pride Rock slowly emerges from the mist. This is Disney’s THE LION KING, making its triumphant return to the Belk Theater!
Love Never Dies
Belk Theater – September 16, 2018
This story of boundless love, full of passion and drama, the ultimate love story continues in LOVE NEVER DIES, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s spellbinding sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera”. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak shows of Coney Island. In this new, electrically charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar, but he has never stopped yearning for his one true love and musical protégée, Christine Daaé.
Belk Theater – October 14, 2018
HAMILTON is the story of America’s Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R & B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now.