For the past 7 years the Museum at APH has put on a unique performance. The actors are all blind or visually impaired, and most read from embossed braille scripts. They use gestures to convey actions, but mostly rely on intonation to express their character’s motivations. The untraditional production opens up the performing arts to people who are blind and visually impaired.
Actress Barbara Henning has performed with APH since 2012. She’s calls herself an imaginative person and has enjoyed this opportunity to learn about her potential. “It has given me permission to explore inside my soul, to figure out who I really am.” She has played a wide range of characters over the years, from Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker to Lady Hero in the Shakespearian Classic Much Ado About Nothing.
While admittedly there are challenges to portraying these roles on stage while reading braille – like timing and keeping your place – they are greatly outweighed by the benefits. “As a child, I loved to listen to the narrators who read the books from the National Library Service Library. They would bring the stories alive with their voices. I wanted to do that too. I love to act and read out loud!”
The opportunity to perform not only gives Barbara an artistic outlet but also helps her build valuable skills. She says she is more confident now that she has performed in front of audiences. Barbara also attributes acting to being able to better step into other people’s shoes. “When I am acting, I truly am outside looking in. I see that character doing what they are doing. If I stop and think about what may be going on, I feel like it’s an “Out-of-body” experience! I don’t have other words to express such a deep happenstance. I want to “walk and talk” my characters.”
This accessible form of theater is great for performers and audience members who are blind and visually impaired. APH believes that art is for everyone; being blind is not a barrier to the performing arts but an opportunity to perceive it in a new way. Talented and passionate performers like Barbara prove that to be true year after year.
Barbara’s advice for people interested in performing, but hesitant due to visual impairments? “Go for it. You can teach folks who are sighted to look deeper inside themselves by showing what it is you can do. Make recordings of reading out loud. Try out for plays. Listen to good actors and narrators and have fun!”
2019: Upcoming Braille Reader’s Theater Production
Are you interested in getting involved? The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind will hold auditions for the Braille Reader’s Theater production of Charlotte’s Web, to be presented March 14-16, 2019. Auditions will take place in the Museum Reception Room at 1839 Frankfort Avenue between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 pm on Thursday December 6; between the hours of 11:00 am and 1:00 pm on Friday, December 7; and between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 pm on Saturday, December 8.
Charlotte’s Web is based on the classic children’s book by E.B. White. It begins when a soft-hearted farm girl named Fern interferes with her father’s plan to turn a scrawny piglet named Wilbur into pork chops. As Wilbur grows and begins to cost his owners a fortune in feed, it takes the help of all his farmyard friends to save his life again, including a silly goose, a moody sheep, a selfish rat, and the miraculous talents of a very special spider named Charlotte. This heart-warming tale of friendship, selflessness, and the circle of life will enchant audiences of all ages.
Children’s parts of Fern, Avery, Wilbur, and the lamb have already been cast. Parts for adults and teens are as follows:
- John Arable — a farmer, and Fern’s father
- Martha Arable — Fern’s mother
- Homer Zuckerman — a farm, Fern’s uncle
- Edith Zuckerman — Fern’s aunt
- Lurvy — a hired hand
- Templeton — a rat
- Charlotte — a spider
- Goose, Gander, Sheep, Lamb — farm animals
- Various extras – reporter, photographer, spectators, judges, fairgoers, announcer
The cast will meet for a read-through shortly after parts are assigned. Rehearsals will take place beginning in the middle of January. For more information, contact Katie Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-899-2213