SEATTLE — The Academy Award-winning film “Coda” broke ground with a story and cast that embraced the hearing impaired to a full extent rarely seen on film.
But right in the Pacific Northwest, the Sound Theatre Company is working to make a production that everyone can enjoy regardless of disability.
“We make theater of course. We make theater generally focused on justice, accessibility and we talk about disability justice a lot,” said Rosemary Jones, a production manager with the Sound Theatre Company.
“We want to make sure people feel safe,” said Aaron Jin, the Sound Theatre Company’s marketing manager.
“It’s about creating a space where disabled performers and disabled designers and all that can be a part of the process,” Jones said.
Jones and Jin admit it is an extra layer of production to make a theater production accessible to the hearing impaired and others, but the Sound Theatre Company has always taken production to new heights.
“In the case of working with deaf or hard-of-hearing folks, we hire interpreters and work with them; and we also have been working to develop other ways to have constant captioning for people,” Jones said.
While the Sound Theatre Company currently calls the 12th Avenue Arts in Capitol Hill home, it has played in different venues for years.
Videos from the company’s YouTube page highlight all the efforts it has made to try and mount productions that everyone can experience.
While the pandemic might have hurt the performing arts as a whole, it has presented an opportunity for the Sound Theatre Company.
“We are streaming live productions, which used to be a thing that we were really like, ‘Oh no, we’re live theater; we don’t do that recording video thing,’ but we’re streaming our production and Sound Theatre Company actually produced a full feature film last fall,” Jin said.
It takes more planning to put on a performance for the hearing impaired or to make space physically accessible for all, which is one reason why grants and financial support during the pandemic allowed the theater company to transition from a fully volunteer enterprise to one with paid professional staff.
The Sound Theatre Company has won awards and gained recognition for its work, which will continue to grow and improve with the hope to have full audiences again soon.
“On every step of the way we think about everyone who might interact with it and how we can meet all their needs without them having to ask for extra support,” said Jones.
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