“Imagine going to your favorite Broadway show. You sit down. You hear the orchestra warm up. The overture starts. The curtain opens. But nobody ever turns on the lights. You hear every line and every note, but it’s all in complete darkness. That is what I expected my daughter would experience when we attended The Little Mermaid at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis on July 29. My daughter, Cora, is a 6 year old lover of mermaids who just happens to be totally blind. She was born with a condition called Congenital Glaucoma and before her 2nd birthday she could only see some light. That doesn’t stop her from being just like every other 6 year old! She is currently trying to decide if she wants to be Ariel or Moana when she grows up. Or maybe she’ll just be a ninja.
A couple of days before the show, I received an email from a friend who was organizing our group going up to Memphis. She told me that we would need to get to the Orpheum by 1:30 to meet with the Sound Technician and the person who would be describing the show to Cora! I was floored. I didn’t know that my friend, Renee, had been working behind the scenes to make sure that my daughter got the most out of her first Broadway Musical!
Saturday morning, we left Jackson, MS bright and early. We got to the theatre on time and met the sound technician, Bernie. He was very kind and allowed Cora time to feel and get used to the headset she would be using. We then met Aletta Roebuck who would be the voice in my daughter’s ear and her window to all of the visual information on the stage. Bernie showed us to our seats and we tested the system which worked perfectly. As soon as the curtain rose, Cora leaned over to me and whispered, “Mommy, I hear Ms. Aletta!”
Then as I watch a gorgeous mermaid float across the stage, I heard her say, “Wow! Ariel has beautiful red hair!” I teared up because I knew that my little mermaid felt totally included in this world of magic and theatre! All through the show she was letting me in on little visual details that I was too far away from the stage to see. She was totally engaged in the entire show. As a mom, it was magical to hear my daughter laugh at the visual and physical humor that was happening on the stage. She laughed right along with everyone else because she understood what was going on! She had an absolutely magical day!
I want to say a huge thank you to the staff at the Orpheum in Memphis. Shelby did a wonderful job organizing this. Bernie put in so much work and did a simply amazing job making sure that my daughter had the same access to the show as every other person in the theatre. I also want to say a huge thank you to Aletta Roebuck who sat in the booth and described the show. Aletta did an amazing job making sure Cora understood what was happening on the stage. Thank you so much to Renee who asked if this would be possible and worked on getting this set up!
Technology has come to the point now where most of the time Cora can watch a movie in the theatre with Descriptive Audio, but we never expected the same access to live theatre! Thank you all for making sure that Cora felt like every other little girl in that auditorium! According to Cora, the best parts of the show were Ariel and hearing Ms. Aletta’s voice!”