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It alters the learning environment when there is sensitivity and awareness…because you look at things differently and you absorb things differently and then you are able to take those learnings and actually alter your behaviors and your choices going forward. I don’t think anybody can be expected to come in to doing something like this for the first time and not make mistakes. I think it’s knowing that it’s OK to make mistakes…the important thing is what you learn from the process, what you take from it, and how you apply this all to the next time.”

Kate Ann Vandermeer
General Manager, Cahoots Theatre
Interview January 28, 2016

Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz
Photo Credit: Dahlia Katz. Elizabeth Morris and Chris Dodd (performers), ULTRASOUND, 2016.

Learnings from the production applied to the DATT point to clear actions needed moving forward. It is crucial that theatre companies:

  • Shift their mindset and accept their role and social responsibility in providing opportunities for Deaf artists and engagement with Deaf audiences.
  • Commit to increasing accessible engagement opportunities that are meaningful and achievable for the organization.
  • Prioritize creating accessible spaces, venues, and art.
  • Alter the existing producing model used in theatre and ensure realistic funds are allocated to support accessible initiatives.
  • Generate production budgets that incorporate realistic expense lines for ASL Interpreters, Deaf Interpreters, ASL coaches and Deaf Community Consultants. Recognize these roles as being equally as vital to the creative team.
  • Ensure that access is provided at every entry point to the theatrical experience – box office, front of house, meetings, marketing, website, rehearsals, performances, etc.
  • Build relationships and capacity within the Deaf community.

It goes back to the original question asked at the outset of this toolkit:

“. . . If you don’t have ASL interpreted performances, then I have to ask, ‘Why do you not want Deaf people at your theatre?”[1]This is also true of purchasing assistive listening devices so that Deaf audiences can enter your space and be welcome to enjoy any performance. It is a right for any human being to be able to enjoy your cultural offerings. This means budgeting for assistive listening devices that can be a mainstay of your company for all performances. Survey responses from the Deaf community clearly indicated preference of interpreted performances over traditional “captioned” performances even if it means there would be fewer such performances available. This means scheduling for interpreters well in advance of each season just as you budget for all aspects of a theatre season.

Interpreters, as an integral part of both access and of your artistic vision for a performance, cannot be dependent on grants which come and go but must be a standard line item in your annual operating budget. This means that fundraising must specify that this is a requirement of the company for equal access and a collective responsibility of the company and its supporters. It also means advocating for a change in government policy (see section in this module on “sustainability”).

[1] Marjorie Chan, Artistic Director, Cahoots Theatre Company, Interview, January 28, 2016.

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