New Jersey Stage

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New Jersey Theatre Alliance And State-wide Open Captioning Theatre Performances Promote Universal Access

(West Orange, NJ)  How many times have you seen a play where you miss a line of dialogue, and wish there was closed captioning - like there is on television - so you could read what you just missed?

Now, you have that chance.

The New Jersey Theatre Alliance and six of its member theatres – with the support of The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey, The Wallerstein Foundation for Geriatric Life Improvement and The Grotta Fund for Senior Care of the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest of NJ – are offering performances of some of this seasons must-see shows with Open Captioning.



Open Captioning is text displayed on a screen simultaneously to live speech, dialogue or performance.  Like "Closed Captioning" – the service offered on television programs for people with hearing loss – Open Captioning was originally designed to benefit people with hearing loss because it affords them the opportunity to experience the excitement of live theatre.  While many of New Jersey's professional theatres offer sign language interpreted performances and listening enhancement systems, not all people who live with hearing loss fully benefit from such programs/services; Open Captioning fills that void.

But over the years of offering Open Captioned performances, the Theatre Alliance and their member theatres realized that people with hearing loss were not the only ones who enjoyed them.



"Over the four seasons that McCarter has been doing Open Captioning, we have learned that the program benefits a wide segment of our audience, not just the ones who know they are hard of hearing," says General Manager Tom Muza.  "I have heard from patrons many times: I did not understand that accent, so it helped to see the text, or I missed that line of dialogue, but got the meaning of the scene because I could see the text on the screen out the corner of my eye."



The Open Captioning series will provide six open captioned matinee performances including:



Curtains at Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - May 22; 1:30pm – A theatre-loving detective is called in to investigate a murder that took place behind the scenes of a Broadway-bound musical; can he solve the case without becoming a victim? (Musical/Comedy)



God of Carnage at George Street Playhouse, New Brunswick – June 4; 2pm – All hell breaks loose when two sets of parents meet to discuss the playground altercation between their eleven-year-old sons. (Comedy)



Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at Two River Theater Company, Red Bank – June 4; 2pm  – Naughty, funny, dark and romantic, over a half century after they were written, singer –songwriter Jacques Brel's songs retain their edgy vibe. (Musical)



Night of the Iguana at Centenary Stage Company, Hackettstown – October 9; 2pm  – A defrocked priest scrapes out a living as a tour guide in Mexico and finds two women vying for his attentions … and his very soul. (Drama)



To Kill a Mockingbird at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Madison – November 5; 2pm  – This adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a must for every new generation; the story's fundamental lessons about compassion, integrity, and courage are breath-taking and life-changing. (Drama)



A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre Center – December 17; 2pm  – This critically acclaimed production of Charles Dickens' story follows Ebenezer Scrooge on a magical journey with the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present toward a future of peace and goodwill. (Holiday)



Of the project, Arlene Romoff, co-founder of the Hearing Loss Association of New Jersey, and author of two books about her experiences with cochlear implants says, "This is a wonderful opportunity to sample some of New Jersey's finest theatre without worrying about missing a word.  Open captioning has allowed me and others to enjoy live theater once again."



The Theatre Alliance has long been a champion of accessibility programs and is delighted to offer this statewide program.  "The New Jersey Theatre Alliance wants all theater goers to experience the joy of live theatre to its fullest," says Executive Director John McEwen. "Captioning is a wonderful service for the entire audience, ensuring universal access."





About to enter its 30th year, the New Jersey Theatre Alliance is the statewide organization for professional, not-for-profit theatre companies and is a leader in developing model programs that foster collaboration, cooperation and audience development. The Alliance assists member theatres in their growth and development, as well as the promotion of their programs, helping them reach their full potential. For the arts patron, the Alliance provides a variety of services to enhance their theatre-going experience.  For more information, and to find out about its programs and services, visit the Alliance website at www.njtheatrealliance.org or call (973) 731-6582 ext. 14.



Funding for the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, a not-for-profit organization, is provided in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as contributions from foundations, corporations, businesses and individuals.  United Airlines is the official airline of the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.

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Photo courtesy of TDF – Theatre Development Fund