Christmas productions now available to people with hearing impairments

Christmas productions now available to people with hearing impairments

December 8th, 2011 by Andrew Pantazi in Life Entertainment

George Quick, producing director for the Chattanooga Threatre Centre, shows off a captioning screen the center acquired two years ago for hearing impaired patrons.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

PLAYS FOR THE HEARING-IMPAIRED

What: "Beauty & the Beast" with sign-language interpretation.

When: Dec. 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. and 16, 17 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Colonnade at 264 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, Ga.


What: "Nutcracker Christmas Carol" with sign-language interpretation.

When: Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Chattanooga State Community College Humanities Theatre, 4501 Amnicola Highway.


What: "Nutcracker Christmas Carol" with real-time captioning

When: Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Chattanooga State Community College Humanities Theatre, 4501 Amnicola Highway.


What: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" with real-time captioning.

When: Dec. 22 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River Street.

SIGNING SANTA

Children hoping to tell Santa their Christmas wishes can do so by sign language. Call the signing Santa at 877-507-2682 or visit www.signingsanta.tv from a videophone on Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m, and again next week on Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.zvrs.com/signingsanta.

Christmas, perhaps more than any other holiday, relies on senses.

Smells of evergreen and pine trees, gingerbread cookies and peppermints permeate the air. The sights of lighted decorations, ornaments and model villages are everywhere. And the sounds of Christmas carols, poems and stories, and chitchat with family and friends set the mood for the season.

For the deaf and hard of hearing, live captioning and sign-language interpretation at Christmas plays help bridge a gap.

Two years ago, Linda Hershey, who began working as a court reporter in 1975, approached George Quick, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's producing director, about providing captioning at the theater's shows.

This was largely unheard of, she says now. She knew of only one other city that captioned plays.

Quick saw the opportunity and wanted to start, but first he and Hershey needed a captioning board. The Hearing Loss Association of America's Chattanooga chapter participates in an annual fundraiser called Walk4Hearing, so the chapter agreed to buy a captioning board and loan it out for use.

The first captioned play in Chattanooga was "A Christmas Carol" in 2009. Since then, the last Thursday performance of every show at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's main stage is captioned.

Jan Belk, a Chattanooga Theatre Centre spokeswoman, said live captioning was one of the most successful ideas the theater has had in years.

"Those Thursday nights are full," she said.

The reason captioned shows can be even better than shows with sign-language interpretation, Quick said, is that it helps everybody who can't hear well, even those who can't sign.

"You don't have to make an announcement that you can't hear well," he said. "You can just come. For a lot of people, that's a big hurdle. ... It seems to be a better solution than signing, because not everybody who lost their hearing can sign."

After seeing a captioned showing of "The Producers" at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, Rex Knowles, the executive director of Chattanooga State Community College's theater program, loved the captioning and decided he wanted to bring it to his plays.

That fall, in 2010, Hershey captioned "The Nutcracker Christmas Carol," a show Knowles wrote himself.

Betty Proctor, a leader in the Hearing Loss Association of America Chattanooga chapter who has 95 percent hearing loss, told Knowles that she was so happy to be able to follow the plot and understand the jokes.

This Christmas, Hershey will again be captioning for Chattanooga State's and the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's Christmas productions.

She said she left court reporting to do captioning because of the positive difference she was making in the lives of the deaf and hard of hearing. At one of her first shows at Chattanooga Theatre Centre, a woman came up to her to thank her.

"She was so happy, so thrilled to actually be able to know what was going on," Hershey said. "In the legal field, no one ever comes up to me and says 'Thank you. You changed my life.' In this field, people say, 'Thank you. You don't know what you've done for me.'"