London's Grand Theatre opens doors to deaf patrons and actors

London’s Grand Theatre is reaching out to the deaf community by offering open-captioned shows, as well as productions that will feature actors who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Upcoming performances will feature deaf actors with sign language interpretation and open-captioning

(Hala Ghonaim/ CBC News )

London's Grand Theatre is reaching out to the deaf community to help make productions more accessible.

The Grand has announced that for the first time it's offering open-captioned shows, as well as productions that will feature actors who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

The theatre is also continuing to offer American Sign Language (ASL)-interpreted performances.

Deb Harvey, executive director of the Grand Theatre, told CBC's London MorningWednesday that open-captioning will be used for the first time at the December 29 and 30 performances of A Christmas Carol.

"It's kind of like watching (closed captioning) on your television, where you can see all the lines scooting across the screen," said Harvey.

The open-captioned screen will be positioned at a low level in the theatre with special seating for those who want to use the service.

Historic deaf characters 

The current season also includes casting and productions that will reflect a new level of accessibility. Two performances involve historic figures who were deaf.

The world premiere of Silence tells the love story of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel, who was was unable to hear. And Beethoven Lives Upstairs is about the famous composer Ludwig Van Beethoven who became deaf in his 30s.

Harvey says Catherine MacKinnon, who plays a role in Silence, is deaf herself.

"So in order for Catherine to be here and work with us, there will be two ASL interpreters who will work full-time with Catherine through the rehearsal and through the show period."

Two performances of Silence will be offered with ASL interpretation and there will be two open-captioned shows.
(Hala Ghonaim/ CBC News)

Advice from deaf community

Harvey says the deaf community has made some positive recommendations that have been implemented for the productions.

For the ASL-shows, it was suggested that the theatre have interpreters as ASL ambassadors in the lobby to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons.

They also suggested that the theatre have notepads at all the concessions and at the bar to make it easy to order food or drinks, said Harvey.

The Grand has also improved its hearing-assited system to allow for wireless accessibility.

More information about the ASL and open-captioned productions can be found on the theatre's website or by phoning the box office.

Clarifications

  • In an earlier version of this story, Catherine MacKinnon was listed as playing Mabel Bell. In fact, Tara Rosling is playing Mabel and Catherine is Eliza Bell.
    Dec 22, 2017 11:48 AM ET