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Cochlear Implants, hearing loss and more! I carry an interesting perspective: someone who had normal hearing growing up, lost it all slowly as an adult, then regained it with cochlear implants. So I'm deaf, but I can hear - a true miracle. If you'd like to know more about me and my bilateral cochlear implant experiences right away, my two books have a wealth of information - see the links below. Check out the list of upcoming events too - perhaps one day we'll get to meet!


Saturday, June 25, 2011

WICKED captioned at the Kennedy Center

I promised to talk more about the captioned live performance of WICKED at the Kennedy Center - one of the highlights of the HLAA convention held in Crystal City, just outside of Washington DC.  This was also an enormous challenge for the Kennedy Center, as it had to prepare for 600 convention attendees, eager to enjoy the show - with captions!

As I've mentioned, and is noted in my book, "Listening Closely", I've been involved with advocacy for live theater captioning since 1996 (prior to getting my cochlear implants), when we were successful in getting the first open captioned performance at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey.  I've also been attending the LEAD arts access conferences, sponsored by the Kennedy Center. Here's the brochure from the 2010 conference - flip to Page 5 to see me using a neckloop and infrared receiver, while trying out a handheld device for museums -

The captioned performance was a sight to behold - as the show's stage set and the theater itself are grand and impressive.  There were LED signs on either side of the stage, and 5 more hung from the balcony so that people in the rear orchestra could also read the captioning.  The theater was looped temporarily for this occasion (so people with t-coils on their hearing aids or cochlear implant processors just had to turn them on), in addition to having 600 receivers available for the infrared system.  It was all taken care of so professionally that no one suspected what grandiose preparations had taken place behind the scenes.
According to Betty Siegel, Director of Accessibility at the Kennedy Center, this was like planning for D-Day.  And for David Chu of C2 Caption Coalition, he had the daunting task of coordinating seven LED screens - some with two lines of text and some with three - aside from all the electronics involved.

Betty borrowed LED signs from everyone they knew - George Mason University, Gallaudet University, National Museum of the American Indian, C2, Inc and from as far away as VSA Arizona.  David Chu, C2, Inc. worked his way thru countless technical glitches, and then did an absolutely stellar job with the captioning itself, ensuring that the timing and scrolling was precise on all 7 signs (so good that two hardened stage hands were overheard to say it was "amazing" and the best they'd ever seen). And, of course, there were support staff collecting the signs, coordinating with the production office, dealing with tickets, and so much more.

So when the final curtain fell to a standing ovation, it all looked as though they do this kind of thing all the time.  Well, yes - they do open captioned performances all the time - but to pull this off without a glitch for 600 people - this is one for the Guinness Book of Records!  Memorable and wonderful!

Bravo to all who made this happen - allowing 600 people with hearing loss to attend an incredible show "with dignity."

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