The pandemic forced most industries to go partially or fully online. Obviously, for the theatre industry, houses went dark and many theatres made a pivot to virtual theatre. Now that live theatre is emerging, many companies are deciding how to move forward with their digital offerings, particularly for reasons of accessibility, which is an important and ongoing conversation in many theatre companies.
What Makes Theaters Accessible?
When it comes to accessibility in theatre, many topics come to mind including automatic doors, accessible restrooms, chair lifts, parking, theatre seating, ASL interpreters, large-print programs, braille programs, audio description, captioning — all things related to what happens at the theatre. But what about those that have difficulty attending live theatre?
Why Does Theater Accessibility Matter?
A 2018 report from the CDC revealed that one in seven American adults has a mobility disability. This pandemic proved that working from home was possible in a wide-spread and large scale manner, something accessibility activists have known and have been advocating for a long time. What this means for the theatre and performing arts industries is that we have the technology to bring theatre to the people, instead of only bringing people to the theatre.
How can I make my theater more accessible?
That’s where streaming and video on demand come in. These are not only stopgaps for pandemic times, they are now part of the industry. Theatres are adding digital elements to their season lineup for both artistic and accessibility reasons. And even if you haven’t ventured into virtual theatre yet, check out this guide to get started. (Side note: Virtual options are also great for patrons who still want to enjoy theatre but are not yet ready to return to live performances for health reasons unrelated to mobility.)
How do accessible options help my theater?
Adding livestreaming to your theatre offerings increases your theatre’s accessibility because it offers your patrons a live audience experience from the comfort of their own home. Of course, you can livestream with or without an in-person audience, but we recommend doing both in a hybrid model. There are ways of including your digital audience during the livestream by acknowledging them in the curtain speech and adding a live chat element for patrons to engage with each other (usually a no-no during a performance) and someone from the theatre.
Video on demand is a great way to grow your audience because you’re not limited by location and proximity like in-person performances or time zones like livestreams. Your productions can be viewed all over the world! You can also use video on demand performances as a fundraiser or perk for VIP subscribers. This is a win for theatres and audiences who like more flexibility in their schedule and viewing habits.
What are digital theatre options that help accessibility?
Giving your audiences options with digital theatre enhances your accessibility efforts, and it can also be a smart business decision. Are you ready to reach more theatre lovers by adding streaming and video on-demand to your accessible offerings? On The Stage makes it easy to connect with your audience and mount your productions safely, professionally, and affordably. We have the tools to create, promote, sell tickets, and stream all in one easy-to-use platform. Book a demo and let us show you a simple and cost-effective way to make your theatre more accessible.