Toi Whakaari students win award for making a difference

9 March 2011

An audio-described performance of The Pohutukawa Tree by last year's graduating class of at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School has been recognised by the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand.

Sarah Adams, who was production manager for the play and also drove the audio description, has been presented with The Blind Bit of Difference Award on behalf of The Pohutukawa Tree Company.

“It was really heart-warming to receive the award and see how grateful they were for what we had done,” Sarah says. “It was a lot of hard work because I was starting from scratch but the most important thing is that it’s incredibly rewarding. It was an amazing experience.”

Going the extra mile

Rose Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand, says the award recognises an individual or entity that goes the extra mile to make a difference in the lives of blind or vision-impaired people.

“The awards are made on a case-by-case basis and acknowledge an exceptional contribution,” she says.

“Sarah and her crew pulled out all the stops to research and then produce a very professional audio-described performance. Sarah listened to blind people and took on board what they needed to bring the performance to life for them. And on the night, the cast and crew were incredibly responsive to their audience.”

A challenge

When the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand asked Toi Whakaari if the students could organise an audio-described performance, Sarah was asked if she was interested.

“I was really keen, partly because it was a challenge and partly because my nana has been blind for the past five years,” she says. “I know how much she misses the things she used to do, like going to the theatre.”

Audio description is a commentary for blind and vision-impaired patrons about what is happening on stage in between the dialogue: for instance, the entrances and exits, what the characters look like, the costumes and the set.

As the audio describer, Sarah talked into an AM microphone and transmitter to provide the commentary. This was transmitted to the AM wireless receivers and headsets worn by the audience members.

The Pohutukawa Tree was performed to a full house and the response from the blind patrons was overwhelming, Sarah says.

For more information:

In a case study about the project, Sarah talks to Arts Access Aotearoa about the challenges and rewards of providing an audio-described performance.



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