Expanding Accessibility Initiatives at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival will present Open Captioned performances in its upcoming 27th season as part of an ongoing commitment to broadening the Festival’s accessibility offerings. In addition to American Sign Language-interpreted and Audio Described performances, new Open Captioning and additional Relaxed Performances align with PSF’s mission “to enrich, inspire, engage, and entertain the widest possible audience.”

With the support of the Lehigh Valley Arts Council’s Arts & Access program through an Audience Accommodation Grant, PSF will host its first Open Captioned performances of Ragtime on Wednesday, June 27, and Shakespeare in Love on Wednesday, July 25. These performances will benefit patrons of the deaf and hard of hearing communities, including those who are not familiar with American Sign Language. Not unlike subtitles on a screen, open captioning is a live text display of the words and sounds in the performance. The Open Captioned performances of Ragtime and Shakespeare in Love will also be Audio Described for blind and low-vision audience members.

In addition to other accessible performances, PSF introduced a Relaxed Performance of last season’s children’s production The Ice Princess, which offered a sensory-friendly theatre experience for individuals with a range of sensory, learning and communication differences. Some patrons who may benefit from a relaxed experience, in addition to those on the autism spectrum, include individuals with neurological and communication differences such as ADHD, social anxiety, dementia, and agoraphobia, as well as families with small children.

This summer PSF will present two Relaxed Performances, Alice in Wonderland on Friday, June 29 and Shakespeare for Kids on Wednesday, August 1, respectively.

To prepare patrons for this theatre experience, pre-show preparation materials will be provided and include photos of the theatre spaces and guides to the plays.

Adjustments and accommodations made at relaxed performances typically include a reduction of startling sound or lighting effects, freedom to vocalize, stand, and leave seats during the performance as needed, and freedom to use personal electronic devices for communication or sensory reasons. Noise cancelling headphones and a variety of stress sensory toys will be available to borrow, and there will also be quiet area in the lobby for patrons who need a break during the performance. The most important accommodation, however, is the establishment of a “shush-free zone,” in which patrons are free to experience the show in whatever way is most comfortable, and all modes of expression are not only accepted, but celebrated.

PSF will continue to offer American Sign Language-interpretation and Audio Described performances of Alice in Wonderland and other main stage productions in the 2018 season. The Lehigh Valley Arts Council has been instrumental in the establishment of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s accessible performances and has provided support though their Arts & Access program, which was initially designed as a yearlong celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

An American Sign Language and Audio Described performance of Alice in Wonderland will be presented on Saturday, July 28, at 10am. Audio Described performances will also be available for Ragtime on June 27, at 8pm and Shakespeare in Love on Saturday, July 28, at 8pm.

For pricing, tickets or for more information about accessible performances please contact the PSF box office at 610-282-3654 ext. 1 or email psf@shakespeare.org.

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s Accessible Performances:

Relaxed Performance (RP):
Alice in Wonderland– Friday, June 29 at 10:00 a.m.
Shakespeare for Kids–Wednesday, August 1 at 2:00 p.m.

Audio Described (AD):
Alice in Wonderland­– Saturday, July 28 at 10:00 a.m.
Ragtime–Wednesday, June 27 at 8:00 p.m.
Shakespeare in Love–Wednesday, July 25 at 8:00 p.m.

Open Captioned (OC):
Ragtime­–Wednesday, June 27 at 8:00 p.m.
Shakespeare in Love–Wednesday, July 25 at 8:00 p.m.

American Sign Language (ASL):
Alice in Wonderland–Saturday, July 28 at 10:00 a.m.

About Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy, Managing Director Casey Gallagher, and Associate Artistic Director Dennis Razze, is the only professional Equity theatre of its scope and scale within a 50-mile radius. PSF is one of only a handful of theatres on the continent producing Shakespeare, musicals, classics, and contemporary plays all of which can all be seen in rep and in multiple spaces within a few visits in a single summer season. A patron would have to travel seven to nine hours from PSF to find a greater range of offerings at a single theatre within a few weeks’ time.

The Festival’s award-winning company of many world-class artists includes Broadway, film, and television veterans, and winners and nominees of the Tony, Emmy, Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, Hayes, Lortel, and Barrymore awards. A leading Shakespeare theatre with a national reputation for excellence, PSF has received coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, American Theatre magazine, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A world-class theater experience on a par with the top Bard fests,” is how one New York Drama Desk reviewer characterized PSF.

Founded in 1992 and now the Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PSF’s mission is to enrich, inspire, engage, and entertain the widest possible audience through first-rate productions of classical and contemporary plays, with a core commitment to Shakespeare and other master dramatists, and through an array of education and mentorship programs. A not-for-profit theatre, PSF receives significant support from its host, DeSales University, and from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. With 150 performances of seven productions, the Festival attracts patrons each summer from 30+ states. In 25 years, PSF has offered 161 total productions (69 Shakespeare), and entertained 850,000+ patrons from 50 states, now averaging 38,000+ in attendance each summer season, plus another 15,000 students each year through its WillPower Tour. PSF is a multi-year recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts: Shakespeare in American Communities, and is a constituent of Theatre Communications Group, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and the Shakespeare Theatre Association. In 2013, leaders of the world’s premier Shakespeare theatres gathered at PSF as the Festival

PATRICK MULCAHY (Producing Artistic Director) Since assuming leadership in 2003, Mulcahy has led PSF’s return to artistic excellence and financial stability, built the professional company of artists, oversaw the quadrupling of the endowment, and achieved increasing national recognition for the Festival. Further accomplishments include PSF’s first-ever awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and attracting a company of artists including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Emmy, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, and Barrymore awards to the Festival, growth in all income areas, a 75% increase in annual attendance, and the expansion of the number of Actors’ Equity contracts per season. As a professional director, actor and fight director, credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, television, and radio. Mulcahy has acted with Angela Bassett, Peter MacNicol, Hal Holbrook, Joan Cusack, Don Cheadle, Anne Meara, Milo O’Shea, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Shaloub, Bradley Whitford, and others at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Hartford Stage, Roundabout Theatre Company, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, and the Walnut St. He served as a fight director for Tom Hulse and Timothy Busfield in A Few Good Men on Broadway and for Off-Broadway productions starring John Savage, John Mahoney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Patrick Dempsey. He directed Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga in The Real Thing, and, for PSF, directed Julius Caesar (2016), Macbeth (2014), Hamlet (2011), Antony and Cleopatra (2009), The Winter’s Tale (2007), Henry IV, Part I (2005), The Tempest (1999), and acted in and served as fight director for The Taming of the Shrew (1998) and Julius Caesar (1997). Also head of acting at DeSales, Patrick holds an MFA from Syracuse University.

Questions? Tina.Slak@pashakespeare.org