Auckland Theatre Company launches accessibility programme
10 June 2014
By Caitlin Salter
Auckland Theatre Company is set to extend its accessibility, kicking off with a sign interpreted and audio described performance of the Maurice Shadbolt classic, Once on Chunuk Bair, on Sunday 22 June.
This is the first time the company has presented a sign interpreted and audio described performance of one of its productions. In addition, the company is offering free tickets to the performance to blind and Deaf audience members.
Jesse Hilford, Ticketing and Sales Manager, says the company appreciates that the cost of tickets can be an issue for some members of the blind and Deaf communities.
Free tickets and feedback
“We decided to offer free tickets to this performance to blind and Deaf people so they can come along and enjoy what is an epic story about the Gallipoli campaign,” he says.
“In return, we’re hoping the patrons will provide us with feedback about their experience so we can improve our future sign interpreted and audio described performances.”
Once on Chunuk Bair was chosen to launch Auckland Theatre Company’s Accessible Theatre Programme because of its national significance. It’s a story, Jesse says, that should be made accessible to all New Zealanders.
Before the performance, audio describers Nicola Owen and Carl Smith will provide a touch tour of the stage set, the props and costumes for blind and vision impaired patrons.
Dan Hanks will lead the sign interpreting team. There will also be a pre-show talk in New Zealand Sign Language about the story and clarification of the NZSL signs for names and locations.
The next production planned for sign interpretation and audio description is the musical Jesus Christ Superstar in November.
Building connections with communities
From the beginning, Auckland Theatre Company has worked with the Blind Foundation and the Auckland Deaf Club, and is keen to continue building connections with the blind and Deaf communities to make theatre more accessible to them.
Three years ago the company’s production of Calendar Girls at The Civic was sign interpreted in association with THE EDGE (now known as Auckland Live) and its SIGNAL programme.
Lester McGrath, General Manager, says that this introduction to audio described and signed performances encouraged Auckland Theatre Company to develop its own Accessible Theatre Programme.
“We are excited to be launching this initiative and hope that it will introduce the theatre experience to audiences that may not traditionally have chosen to attend”, Lester says.
“The feedback from patrons will be invaluable and directly contribute to what we hope will become regular signed and audio described performances in the annual calendar.”
The Auckland Theatre Company currently uses different venues for its productions. However, it will move into its new, accessible theatre on the Auckland waterfront in 2016.
The sign interpreted and audio described performance of Once on Chunuk Bair is in the Maidment Theatre starting at 4pm on Sunday 22 June. There’s a touch tour at 2pm and introductory notes for blind patrons will be available in the auditorium at 3.45pm. The sign interpreted pre-show talk starts at 3.15pm.