Flashback to the year 2007. My family and I had just moved from Idaho to the Twin Cities area (that's Minneapolis-St.Paul for those not familiar with geography). It was a year of big changes for me - transferring to my third school, a new job for my father, the I-35 bridge collapse - and what spurred a renaissance of theatregoing for me. One of the reasons I agreed to move to the Twin Cities was the lure of sign language interpreted performances. I had grown up with limited access to the theatre (see earlier postings for additional information).
So I had no expectations whatsover when my family and I reserved tickets to see The Lion King at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis in November of 2007. From the moment the curtain opened to the standing ovation at the end, I was hooked. I couldn't have been more fortunate as the two sign language interpreters did a stellar job of translating the music and lyrics of the show. I loved how they translated "Hakuna Matata!" Loved the opening scene with "Circle of Life". Loved every moment of it.
I have not had an less-than-stellar experience with this particular theatre organization. The box office folks, the ushers, and the house manager have gone out of their way to make not only myself, but the Deaf community feel welcome. Even with the occasional odd request from a certain theatre afficionado, they still maintain the magic of live theatre.
What requests? Well, there was the time where I saw Rent four times in a single weekend - and they made it possible for me to acquire student rush tickets and still have optimal sightlines for lipreading on the non-interpreted days. Or when I needed to bring in a script and flashlight for The Phantom of the Opera the second time I saw it - days after I saw the interpreted performance. (Folks out there may remember the ill-fated performance of Aida at another venue where the script was nearly consficated in a misunderstanding between the Box Office folks and the ushers). Or the time I needed to exchange tickets for a performance of Mary Poppins to a later date so my mother could see it once she flew back home (not to mention that I had already seen it thrice thus far). Or when I needed a copy of the script (or two) so I could mentally prepare for the show - and to work with the interpreters as a coach. Or that they listened to the requests made by Deaf patrons to bring captioned performances to add to their repertoire.
I have had theatre highs and theatre lows, but no organization has had far more highs than low (I can only think of one - with the scheduling mishap of High School Musical where half of the Deaf patrons showed up at an earlier show to find no interpreter present - but that worked out in our favor with compenstation given. That pales to the number of highlights.) Not only that, they consistenly bring out top-ranking sign language interpreters who clearly know their craft. I've loved the shows I have seen at the Orpheum and the State theatres (yes, even Cats - while I hated the show as a whole, the performance was worth it just to see the interpreters - and the occasional flirting cat). The Lion King. My Fair Lady. Jersey Boys. High School Musical (what parts I understood without interpreters, that is). Wicked. Spring Awakening. Rent. The Phantom of the Opera. Cats. Grease. Mary Poppins. A Chorus Line. In the Heights. Billy Elliot.
|In front of the Orpheum Theatre on Hennepin Ave.|
For those in the area, please check out their website at www.hennepintheatretrust.org