The moment Cinderella loses her shoe on the steps of the palace...the Wicked Witch of the West flying over the heads of audience members...these are unforgettable moments in live musical theatre that many of us have shared here at Starlight. However, these moments wouldn’t be as vivid or memorable for all of Starlight’s patrons without the help of the Audio-Reader Network: a reading and information service that fosters independence for blind, visually impaired, and print disabled individuals by providing access to information and the arts.
While many of their services involve reading over the radio and the phone, one unique resource they provide to many theatres and live performance venues, like Starlight, is their Audio Description service. This service aims to bring more meaning and enjoyment to entertainment, cultural, and educational experiences for blind and visually impaired patrons by verbally describing visual imagery, from glass slippers to tornadoes and everything in between: action, costumes, settings, facial gestures and expressions, and more.
At each Saturday night Broadway performance at Starlight, patrons wanting to utilize this service can check out a pair of headphones from the Audio-Reader table behind the Terrace 2 seating section. * Trained volunteer Audio Describers then broadcast directly to the headphones, painting a vivid picture of the entire Starlight experience. Before the show, the program is read and the venue layout (including aisles, bathrooms, and exits) is described, while sets, costumes, gestures, facial expressions, stage action and other visual elements are brought to life during the performance, without speaking over the actors.
The impact of this service and their amazing volunteers is palpable. One of their attendees had this to say about a recent experience: "For a brief moment in (my sons’) lives, they were like every other kid, and their dad was like everyone else. Their dad wasn't different. They didn't have to fill me in on everything and we could all experience the excitement together. I was able to experience it at the magnitude that everyone else who is sighted does. I can't think of a time when my boys have had that experience. They were so proud I experienced it just like them. It was a new world for them."
The work of Audio-Reader Network staff and volunteers is making a huge impact on Kansas City and beyond, and Starlight is grateful for all they do to bring our shows to life!
If you’d like to learn more about the Audio-Reader Network, head over to their website at https://reader.ku.edu/. Interested in learning more about Starlight’s accessibility services? Visit our website at https://www.kcstarlight.com/visit-starlight/accessibility-of-starlight/.
* Escorts are available from the gate to your seat and from your seat to the gate at all performances at Starlight. Service dogs are also welcome.