Every since I moved here Ken wanted to go see the annual play Saturday’s Voyeur filled with humor at Utah’s expense. I wasn’t too thrilled about going because I knew I wouldn’t understand so he let it go these last 7 years. This year he saw the poster/cover and really wanted to go. I said I’d give it a try even though someone else told me the assistive listening system there wasn’t that good.
Ken bought tickets in the front row in hopes what I could hear and lipreading might combine to make a good experience. We went in a few days early to see what kind of listening system they had which was FM. They didn’t have neckloops available, only headphones but hey, no problem! I’ll bring my own amplified neckloop.
We showed up and they had the FM system right there to pick up as they took our tickets. We sat down among others with ice chests, pouring wine for each other or cracking a beer. Some people made it a picnic showing up with salads, meals, crackers and cheese. I settled in plugging my neckloop into the portable FM receiver, got my own glass of wine and looked around. It was a small stage and we were almost center of it. Music played in the background, a band was just visible behind a stage curtain and people were talking all around us above the music. I looked up and saw 4 little mics hanging from the ceiling above the stage. Uh oh, the actors were not individually mic’ed and they were a good 4 feet above their heads.
I turned on the FM system and couldn’t tell the difference between what my hearing aids were hearing and what was coming across the FM system through my telecoils. I had a bad feeling about this. Ken said (I could barely hear him in the noise) it would get better when it started up and the audience quieted down. Maybe.
The lights went out and the audience did quiet down nicely. I went into the FM system and could not understand a single word. I went full volume and still couldn’t understand anything and that’s with my 15 decibel gain neckloop. I stayed with it for about 20 minutes hoping I’d get used to the sound and start understanding more but it didn’t happen. I took it all off and went into my regular hearing program.
To help things along I switched it my extreme focus forward program and actually heard better that way than through the FM system. That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever tried an ALD (assistive listening device) and heard worse! Voices were clearer with my hearing aids and I could snag a word here and there but still not enough to understand the play darn it.
Lipreading? Not possible either. Acting on stage involves a lot of exaggerated facial expressions which distorts lipreading. Then they started to sing and I didn’t even know this would be a musical play and singing further exaggerates lip movements and I understood none of the lyrics. When multiple actors are on stage they often block one another and there’s fake beards to try to lipread through (not easy), masks and even one character talking into his hat. They turn their heads this and that so lipreading was a failure of sorts too. Occasionally I’d snag a whole sentence when circumstances were just right but not enough to make sense of anything.
The play had some visual characters and even though I couldn’t understand much of what she said, I loved the pink wigged fairy godmother character with her facial expressions and wand. Some of the antics were visual enough I could laugh at that but not often enough and I wished like hell I could hear the words too. Too many times there was jokes I didn’t understand and it’s such an isolating experience to sit in the midst of a laughing audience.
There were three acts, two intermissions. During the second intermission I was posting to Facebook about my experience when the lights went down. I continued to post. Ken said, “It’s starting, put your phone down.”
I kept writing my post so he elbowed me. “Put your phone away, you’re missing it,” he told me.
“So what, I’m missing it anyway, ” I told him. “You just want me to put my phone down because you think it’s rude.”
“It is rude, put your phone away.”
I finished my post and put my phone away. Since the play was going on I didn’t bother telling him my thoughts which were: It’s rude to advertise an assisitive listening system and have it be completely useless. What about how rude that is to me? It’s a big fat tease and it’s lucky I didn’t break down crying.
Instead of watching the third act I started watching the audience to see who else might be hard of hearing. I spotted 6 people. Two men were faking laughter and how do I know that? Because their laughter was always delayed, it came well after everyone else was laughing. I saw 4 other people who were sitting there like me not laughing at all and I’m going to assume they were hard of hearing too. They could have been offended but they didn’t fit that image with a beer or glass of wine in hand. Had they tried the listening system before and gave up? Did they even know one was available? Why don’t they offer people the ALDs as they come in? Maybe our ALD sign is too obscure, maybe we need to add words and or posters to explain what’s available.
Instead of going to tears I thought of what I can do to make it better next time. Get CART? Try to get to a hold of them so maybe I can read the script and talk to them about their useless listening system? Maybe this is just an opportunity in disguise. I really liked the theater and the casual atmosphere and wouldn’t mind coming more often but things would certainly have to improve before that can happen. It sure made me appreciate Vicki of Turner Court Reporting and Captioning Services all the more for doing captioned Broadway plays for us not that I didn’t already highly appreciate the service.
The next day I wrote into the Salt Lake Acting Company and did get a reply back. Things are busy so she asked me to pick dates to come in and read the script and to talk about the listening system. I’d love to read the script, even after the fact, so that I finally know what everyone else was laughing at. It looked like such fun. I’m waiting to hear back.
Sometimes we have to go and fail first before we can set things straight. This was one of those times. It was a fail but I’m proud of myself for not letting myself get so upset over it all. It happens and it may be an opportunity, a hearing loop in there would be so awesome.