VocalEye and PuSh Festival: Accessible Theatre

Hey, Jim, how do you like to spend your weekends? – Well, I love to eat, love to cook, love to read, and I love riding my bike. And I love going
to the theater whenever I have a chance. – So does Vancouver’s Grant Hardy. He recently spent an afternoon at the theater and got a completely accessible experience thanks to a couple of awesome organizations working together, Vocal Eye and the PuSh Festival. – Vocal Eye provides live description of
performances for blind or
low-vision patrons, and the annual PuSh Festival worked hard to be inclusive
of guests with a variety of disabilities. – Let’s go behind the scenes, or backstage, to learn about the amazing people that make the accessible
theater scene in Vancouver a reality. – I have dark black hair, and I wear dark lipstick, and my costume is black and white. – [Grant] Vocal Eye was out in full force even before
the play began, with a described
introduction to the characters by the actors themselves, followed by a tour of the minimal set consisting of just a large square of AstroTurf and orange chairs. Is this made
from real grass? – No, it’s basically plastic, some description, so it does look very, very grassy. It’s just a really uniform length, and that sound. – [Grant] Today, I’m here to see the PuSh Festival’s performance of
Concord Floral, a highly acclaimed play directed by
Erin Brubacher. – Concord Floral is a piece that features an ensemble of 10 teenage actors. It’s a story that is inspired in part by The Decameron, which is a 14th century allegory along with an
encounter with the actual Concord Floral, which was an abandoned greenhouse in Vaughan, which is suburb to the north of Toronto in which local teenagers had parties and made a space of their own in a landscape and neighborhood where there really wasn’t much other than highway and McDonald’s and fields. – [Grant] Erin’s team was preparing for their first described performance at
the festival. Anika Vervecken,
accessible PuSh coordinator, says that the
festival tries to make access to shows a priority. – We always have a live described show that we work with Vocal Eye with. We provide sighted guides not just for the show
that’s described, but for any show
that anybody might want to come to. – [Steph] So you remember how this all works? Are you using
your own earbuds? – [Grant] The theater description is
made possible by Vocal Eye,
and according to executive director Steph Kirkland, a lot goes into having a smooth show. – I have partnerships
with our, with our theaters and the producers so that we make sure that the describer gets a copy of the script. We make sure that we have a date that’s designated for the description in the run of the show. We make sure
that seats are held aside for
Vocal Eye patrons in areas of the
theater that are comfortable for them, usually at the front of the theater, for example, for people who
have guide dogs and for people who have partial vision who may like a
close proximity. And then, our describer has to view the show at least three times and make notes about all of the visual elements that are important and practice that
description, and then, we deliver that on the day. – [Grant] Delivering the description for today’s performance is describer Ingrid Turk. – The first time I see it, I’m getting a general impression, take notes and will often use the discreet little microphone
we have to make some verbal
notes as well. – [Grant] And this particular play presents some interesting challenges for Ingrid. – Yeah, some of the locations, I think, are gonna be a challenge to describe. There’s one scene in particular where two girls are looking into a hole. – I recognize
that sweater. – She’s all twisted. – Maybe she fell in and broke her neck. – Or was thrown in. – Who would throw her in? – Someone who
didn’t like her. – I’m looking
forward to finding just the right combination of words to
describe the light that’s coming
out of the hole and their postures as they’re looking into it, and I just hope I have enough time to say it all. – [Grant] After all that preparation, it was finally
showtime, and thanks to
everyone’s efforts, I knew that I
would be able to fully appreciate the performance, which is exactly what keeps staff motivated. – I love theater, I love live performing arts, and for me, it’s one of the most rewarding things possible to share this with other people. – They’re searching for a little beauty
in the world. Because life without beauty is unbearable. (school bell ringing) – I haven’t seen
Concord Floral, but I hear it is
a real thriller and deals with lots of issues teens experience, like bullying, peer pressure, and self-image. – You know, it’s great that Vocal Eye and PuSh make plays like
this accessible. For more information, check out vocaleye.ca That’s vocal E-Y-E.ca, or pushfestival.ca

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