Your Production will likely have a Question (Q) and Answer (A) period after several performances in any run. Refer to the “Outreach” module. Quite aside from the Q and A period, audience feedback is vital both as an opportunity for audience members to connect with your company, with Deaf community cast and crew as well as to inform your company of possible improvements to access and engagement for future productions. Theatre can be designed to serve as a forum for enjoyment, discussion, new thought, opportunities for sharing ideas, feelings and sometimes pushing the envelope. We can also always expect a great variety of responses to both the content and artistic design of a performance. It is an especially wonderful opportunity for exchange of ideas with Deaf and hearing audiences.
- The first “rule of thumb” in a small theatre, is to linger if possible in the theatre when the performance is done to know what people are saying and to be there if they wish to share directly with you. Ensure interpreters are available post performance so that the discussions are accessible for all and Deaf and hearing audience members, Deaf actors, and production personnel.
- Regardless of the size of your theatre, you can set up a “Signer’s Corner/Speaker’s Corner. Delineate a space in front of house (FOH) for your audience to share their feedback on the performance. Ensure an interpreter is present and film patron feedback (with their signed permission on a sign-up sheet beside the video recorder) if you wish to record responses. These can be used to inform your company staff of issues raised by the performance or for promotional purposes if you get permission from those who speak out/sign up in Signer’s Corner.
- Often reviews are written by members of the press who are not necessarily well informed about the particular culture being represented onstage and Deaf culture, ASL and the Deaf community is no exception. You can send the press educational material in advance to support the cultural content in your performance and their review of it, or encourage media outlets to seek out reviewers with more cultural context. In addition to the written reviews of theatre production that are standard in the industry, engaging Deaf performers and audiences provides a wonderful opportunity for video log (vlog) performance reviews to inform the broader Deaf community of the production and to encourage growing attendance by the Deaf community to future theatre productions.
See an example of an ASL Vlog review of ULTRASOUND by Gary Malkowski, Canadian Hearing Society, audience member.
- When you schedule your post-production postmortem meeting to review the strengths and challenges of the production and to capitalize on any action items that follow it will be valuable to include a dedicated discussion with the Deaf Community Consultant. This must be scheduled in advance in order to ensure that ASL/English interpreters are available and that preferably they are the interpreters who have been involved throughout the production process.
- A post-mortem will provide the company with an opportunity to address its commitment to accessible practices going forward and to ensure what is learned is applied to the company’s future producing plans.