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:
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Knight Theater – April 16, 2017
Brilliantly innovative, heartbreaking, and wickedly funny, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH is the landmark American musical by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask that is “groundbreaking and undoubtedly ahead of its time” (Entertainment Weekly). This genre-bending, fourth-wall-smashing musical sensation, with a pulsing score and electrifying performances, tells the story of one of the most unique characters to ever hit the stage.
Duke Energy Theater – May 6, 2017
In the controversial and groundbreaking Off-Broadway and West End hit THE PRIDE, Philip, Oliver and Sylvia exist in a complex love triangle, which spans over half a century, living and loving simultaneously in 1958 and the present against a background of changing attitudes towards homosexuality. In 1958 Philip is married to Sylvia but finds himself falling in love with another man. His refusal to acknowledge his true nature leads both him and the people he loves to a devastating conclusion. In 2008, Oliver is addicted to anonymous sexual encounters. Forced to make a choice between promiscuity and monogamy, he has to ask himself fundamental questions on the nature of intimacy and identity. Past and present worlds grind together and melt apart, yet the future and its promise of sexual liberation remains ever elusive.
Knight Theater – May 7, 2017
Cirque du Soleil made fame two decades ago when they removed the animals from the Circus, but with CIRCUS 1903, they are back and more beautiful than ever! Featuring the most amazing, dangerous, and unique acts from all four corners of the globe, accompanied by the largest ever performing African elephant, CIRCUS 1903 transports the audience to the golden age of circus.
Knight Theater – July 2, 2017
Based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir, Fun Home introduces us to Alison at three different ages as she explores and unravels the many mysteries of her childhood. A refreshingly honest musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes.
Belk Theater – July 9, 2017
JERSEY BOYS, about Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. This is the true story of how four blue-collar kids became one of the greatest successes in pop music history. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30! JERSEY BOYS features their hit songs “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
The King and I
Belk Theater – July 16, 2017
One of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s finest works, THE KING AND I boasts a score which features such beloved classics as “Getting To Know You,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance” and “Something Wonderful.” Set in 1860’s Bangkok, the musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna Leonowens, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.
The Little Mermaid
Belk Theater – July 23, 2017
In a magical kingdom beneath the sea, the beautiful young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her ocean home to live in the world above. Based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved stories, it’s a hauntingly beautiful love story for the ages. Come fall in love with the magic for the first time—or all over again with classics such as “Under the Sea,” “Kiss the Girl, “Part of Your World” and more!
Duke Energy Theater – August 12, 2017
In the 1930s, burlesque impresarios welcomed the hilarious comics and musical parodies of vaudeville to their decidedly lowbrow niche. A headliner called “the nance”—usually played by a straight man—was a stereotypically camp homosexual and master of comic double entendre. THE NANCE recreates the naughty, raucous world of burlesque’s heyday at a time when it was easy to play gay and dangerous to actually be gay, as we follow Chauncey Miles and his fellow performers on and off stage. Equal parts musical, drama and comedy, the groundbreaking this is a show you can’t miss!
Belk Theater – October 1, 2017
A re-imagining of Puccini’s La Bohème, RENT follows an unforgettable year in the lives of seven artists struggling to follow their dreams without selling out. With its inspiring message of joy and hope in the face of fear, this timeless celebration of friendship and creativity reminds us to measure our lives with the only thing that truly matters—love.
Belk Theater – October 8, 2017
FINDING NEVERLAND tells the incredible story behind one of the world’s most beloved characters: Peter Pan. Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie’s classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event.
The Red Shoes
Belk Theater – October 22, 2017
The Red Shoes has seduced audiences and inspired generations of dancers with its tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Victoria Page lives to dance but her ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion.