By Alex MacDougall
Since its opening in 2008, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts has become one of Worcester’s top attractions and most welcoming venues, bringing in Broadway Hits and over 100,000 people to Worcester every year. But for some people, getting to enjoy the full theatre experience can be a challenge if they or a loved one has a disability that interferes with that experience, such as being blind, deaf, or autistic, which makes one sensitive to loud noises and prone to potential outbursts.
In order to address these issues, The Hanover Theatre has taken the steps necessary to ensure that its performances can be enjoyed by everyone, offering several services and special performances which appeal to those who are blind, deaf, or fall on the autism spectrum.
Several of its upcoming musical performances, such as 42nd Street, The Producers, Ragtime, Annie, Saturday Night Fever, A Christmas Carol, Dirty Dancing and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! will be offering both ASL interpreters and audio descriptive services to anyone who may need them, allowing much greater access to the programs to people who otherwise would not get to enjoy them. This will be The Hanover Theatre’s third season providing ASL interpretation, and its first offering audio description. The ASL interpretation is provided by The Learning Center for the Deaf. Audio description is provided by the Memorial Foundation for the Blind and the Audio Journal.
“The Hanover Theatre remains committed to making performance art visually accessible to the deaf community in Massachusetts,” said Donnie Gibbons, the director of the Learning Center for the Deaf, which is based in Framingham. “Between the beautiful historic building, the preferred seating and ASL access, it’s guaranteed to be a fabulous theater experience for those attend .”
In addition, The Hanover Theatre will also offer its first-ever autism-friendly performance of A Christmas Carol on December 22nd, which was done in partnership with the New England chapter of Autism Speaks, an organization that advocates for those who struggle with autism. This performance will include toned-down sound, volunteers provided by Autism Speaks, an unjudged reaction from the audience, and a “quiet-zone”, where patrons can go if they feel the performance is too loud for them. This special performance is directed by Troy Siebels, the President and CEO of The Hanover Theatre.
“I love the concept. I think it’s something every theatre should be doing.” Said Siebels. “With Broadway shows we don’t get this much control over the production, but with A Christmas Carol, we’re control of it, so we should do it. This is a huge community that doesn’t get much of a voice, and we have the chance to give them that voice.”
More info can be found at www.thehanovertheatre.org/accessibility