Discounted Tickets

Broadway/Off-Broadway:

  • 20%-50% discounted tickets (to select shows, subject to change) at the TKTS booth in Times Square.  Booth opens at 10am for matinee performances and 3pm for evening performances (check TKTS website for specific hours).
  • ~$30 rush tickets are often available the day of a performances.  Check a theater’s specific website for rules and regulations (ie. what ID is necessary, when to line up, etc.).  Popular shows such as “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon” hold a lottery for rush tickets.
  • ~$20 are less common standing room tickets.  These can be purchased about 2 hours prior to a show’s sold-out performance.
  • During “Broadway Week” you can get 2-for-1 tickets to Broadway shows.
  • Other discount ticket websites: Broadway Box, NY Tix, and Theater Mania – these sites also have tickets available for dance concerts/company performances such as the American Ballet Theater and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

New York City Ballet:

  • $15 student-rush tickets can be purchased on the day of a performance either online or in person.  These tickets are available for full-time high school and college students up to age 29.
  • $15 tickets for the “fourth-ring” rows C-O of the theater.

Joyce Theater:

New York City Center:

  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) program for students – simply fill out the online application to receive periodic e-mails about discounted shows for students.
  • “Fall for Dance” is a 10-day dance festival starring companies from all over the world.  ALL tickets are just $10 but the festival sells out within hours.

Carnegie Hall:

  • $10 student rush tickets.  Simply present your student ID at the Box Office on 57th and 7th to purchase up to 2 discounted tickets.

Madison Square Garden & Radio City Music Hall:

  • Sign-up for the MSG Insider to receive e-mails about upcoming presales and discounts.

66th Annual Tony Awards

Last Friday night was the the 66th annual Tony Awards, the brightest night of the year for the Broadway theater community.  You probably already know that “Once” took the top awards of “Best Musical” and “Best Leading Actor.”  5-time Tony winner, Audra McDonald snagged “Best Leading Actress in a Musical.”  And the high-energy, tumbling tricks of “Newsies” was a shoe-in for “Best Choreography.”  But what determines “best” choreography?  Theater critic, Alastair Macaulay, writes “There is no single method for choreography to succeed in a musical: It may be a source of isolated highlights or a unifying thread.”  The competition is also an important factor in determining the year’s winner.  For example, Michael Bennett’s “A Chorus Line” beat out Bob’s Fosse’s “Chicago” back in 1976.  Some of the most renowned “dance musicals” didn’t even win “Best Choreography” (“White Christmas,” “Hairspray,” and “Come Fly Away”).   Here’s a brief list of the past Tony winners for “Best Choreography.”

1947 – Agnes de Mille (Brigadoon) & Michael Kidd (Finian’s Rainbow)

1948 – Jerome Robbins (High Button Shoes)

1949 – Grover Champion (Lend an Ear)

1950 – Helen Tamiris (Touch and Go)

1951 – Michael Kidd (Guys and Dolls)

1952 – Robert Alton (Pal Joey)

1953 – Donald Saddler (Wonderful Town)

1954 – Michael Kidd (Can-Can)

1955 – Bob Fosse (The Pajama Game)

1956 – Bob Fosse (Damn Yankees)

1957 – Michael Kidd (Li’l Abner)

1958 – Jerome Robbins (West Side Story)

1959 – Bob Fosse (Redhead)

1960 – Michael Kidd (Destry Rides Again)

1961 – Gower Champion (Bye Bye Birdie)

1962 – Joe Layton (No Strings)

1963 – Bob Fosse (Little Me)

1964 – Gower Champion (Hello Dolly!)

1965 – Jerome Robbins (Fiddler on the Roof)

1966 – Bob Fosse (Sweet Charity)

1967 – Ron Field (Cabaret)

1968 – Gower Champion (The Happy Time)

1969 – Joe Layton (George M!)

1970 – Ron Field (Applause)

1971 – Donald Saddler (No, No, Nanette)

1972 – Michael Bennett (Follies)

1973 – Bob Fosse (Pippin)

1974 – Michael Bennett (Seesaw)

1975 – George Faison (The Wiz)

1976 – Michael Bennett & Bob Avian (A Chorus Line)

1977 – Peter Gennaro (Annie)

1978 – Bob Fosse (Dancin’)

1979 – Michael Bennett & Bob Avian (Ballroom)

1980 – Tommy Tune & Thommie Walsh (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine)

1981 – Gower Champion (42nd Street)

1982 – Michael Bennett & Michael Peters (Dreamgirls)

1983 – Tommy Tune & Thommie Walsh (My One and Only)

1984 – Danny Daniels (The Tap Dance Kid)

1986 – Bob Fosse (Big Deal)

1987 – Gillian Gregory (Me and My Girl)

1988 – Michael Smuin (Anything Goes)

1989 – Cholly Atkins, Henry LeTang, Frankie Manning, & Rayard Nicholas (Black and Blue)

1990 – Tommy Tune (Grand Hotel)

1991 – Tommy Tune (The Will Rogers Follies)

1992 – Susan Stroman (Crazy for You)

1993 – Wayne Cilento (The Who’s Tommy)

1994 – Kenneth MacMillan (Carousel)

1995 – Susan Stroman (Show Boat)

1996 – Savion Glover (Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk)

1997 – ann Reinking (Chicago0

1998 – Garth Fagan (The Lion King)

1999 – Matthew Bourne (Swan Lake)

2000 – Susan Stroman (Contact)

2001 – Susan Stroman (The Producers)

2002 – Rob Ashford (Thoroughly Modern Millie)

2003 – Twyla Tharp (Movin’ Out)

2004 – Kathleen Marshall (Wonderful Town)

2005 – Jerry Mitchell (La Cage aux Folles)

2006 – Kathleen Marshall (The Pajama Game)

2007 – Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening)

2008 – Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights)

2009 – Peter Darling (Billy Elliot the Musical)

2010 – Bill T. Jones (Fela!)

2011 – Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes)

2012 – Christopher Gattelli (Newsies)

Check out this New York Times article: Judging Tony Nominees by Their Dance Numbers

2012 Student Performance Showcase

The BDC community packed the house of the Symphony Space Theater for our annual Student Performance Showcase.  This is a tremendous opportunity for students to work closely with our esteemed faculty of teachers and choreographers.

Faculty Choreographers:

Justin Boccitto
Jacob Brent
Chio
Jim Cooney
Autumn Dones & Katherine Roarty
Jamie Jackson
Princess Lockeroo
Amira Mor
Q Pittman
Heather Rigg
Sue Samuels
Neil Schwartz
Bettina Sheppard & Diana Laurenson

The Showcase featured hip hop, contemporary, theater, tap, jazz, locking, and even singing and acting.  Princess Lockeroo choreographed a “Hunger Games” inspired waacking routine complete with waacking “battles” and fantastical costumes.  Q Pittman created a jazz funk/hip hop piece satirizing Alvin Ailey’s renowned “Revelations.”  And vocal teacher, Bettina Sheppard teamed up with theater teacher, Diana Laurenson to re-stage the original groovy Fosse choreography of Sweet Charity’s ‘The Rhythm of Life.”

Congratulations to all of the dancers and choreographers involved in this year’s Student Performance Showcase.  And a big “thank you” to April Cook for organizing the whole event.

Because of the great success of the Student Performance Showcase in the Spring, BDC is thrilled to announce the launch of a second Student Performance Showcase to take place in the Fall!  Stay tuned for more information!

Student Profile: Kelsey Stenta – Philadanco D2 Apprentice Company

Check out our newest blog entry by guest writer, Kelsey Stenta.  Kelsey graduated from BDC’s Professional Semester last December and was just cast in Philadanco’s apprentice company, D2.  Read all about her exciting audition experience and learn more on Kelsey’s own blog: www.straight2thepointe.blogspot.com!
Congratulations, Kelsey!

I have wonderful news…I got a contract for an apprenticeship with Philadanco! The apprentice company is called D2, and they take class, rehearse, and perform on a regular basis. D2 performs over 25 times a year and the dancers are sometimes included in Philadanco performances. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve seen many Philadanco performances and I always rant and rave about them. Now I get the chance to work and perform with them!One of the differences between Philadanco and D2 is that Philadanco dancers receive a salary and benefits, while D2 members get paid for performances. Even though I won’t be getting a salary, this is my first ever dance job, and I could not be more ecstatic! Dancer’s spend their entire lives dedicating themselves to training and practicing for this moment. Every experience up until now has been about paying to train so that eventually you can get paid to dance. I’ve finally reached that point where it’s the start of a career, and it feels so good. It’s like spending your whole life in school, and then finally getting a real job. I will not make a living by being in D2, but many dancers in apprentice companies work their way up to the professional company, which is the ultimate goal.I’m glad that I auditioned for the apprentice company first because I get to continue to enhance my technique, gain more performance experience, and work with professionals, all without paying a tuition. Also, the Philadanco dancers (including D2 and the youth program) are like a tight-knit family. It’s almost like the directors and company members are mentors to the other dancers, so they get to know each other very well. If you are already well-known and work hard in D2, you are more likely to get picked for the professional company. They have auditions in January and June, so I plan on auditioning for the professional company after I’ve had some experience in D2.

The audition experience seemed a lot tougher this year. Mrs. Brown (founder of the company) told us before the audition that they have had some funding cuts and therefore, did not have as many spots available. Despite having less openings, there were just as many dancers in the audition as there were last year. Last year, they never made any cuts, so all of the dancers were included in the entire audition, then at the end they called the numbers that they wanted to keep. There were at least a dozen dancers picked for D2, including myself. This year, they made a large cut after about 40 minutes, then another cut later on. The number of dancers picked for D2 this time was at least half compared to last year, if not less. I feel very fortunate and honored to have a second chance at being a part of this dynamic company.

 Friends Dann, Emily, and I before the audition!

Philadanco is a very traditional and strict company. It is mostly modern based with some ballet. In the auditions, Milton Myers always teaches a Horton class. If you don’t know the Horton style, I would describe it as extremely disciplined with linear movements that require a lot of strength. Although that is not the only style that the company does, I would say that it’s the foundation. This is a big change from the type of dancing I was doing in New York. I took a lot of jazz, contemporary, and lyrical, since that is what I concentrated in. Those genres are more new and less strict, whereas Philadanco and their style of dance has been around for decades. I believe that every dancer who wants to succeed should train in multiple styles so they become more versatile, so I am excited to see where my work with this company takes me.

Philadanco has a six week summer skills enhancement series for all of the companies. I start on July 9th, and each week focuses on different styles of dance. We have Graham, Ballet, African, Horton, Contemporary/Modern, and Dunham. We will be taking these classes Monday-Friday from 5:30-7. Then D2 and company members stay until 10:30 on Monday-Thursday for rehearsals. Our first show featuring the D2 dancers is in the beginning of September. After the 6 week intensive, we have our fall schedule, which is class Monday-Wednesday from 5:30-7, then rehearsals on Monday night, Wednesday night, and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. So, with D2 we are dancing four days a week, but we still have time to fit in a work schedule.

Stay tuned to hear more about my experience with this amazing company. I will be posting updates as often as I can! I truly appreciate everyone’s genuine excitement and support; it really means a lot to me. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else 🙂

New Studios! New Schedule!

On Saturday, April 29th, Broadway Dance Center celebrated the opening of its new studio space – including two floors, a large marley-floored studio, a tap studio, and a bigger retail store.

With this additional space, BDC is thrilled to be able to offer many more classes, teachers, and styles of dance – Zumba, Partnering, Body Percussion, and more!

The “Grand Opening” party welcomed BDC faculty and staff to mix and mingle in the new space.  Additionally, the night included performances from BDC’s Children and Teen Program, International Student Visa Program, Professional Semester, the hit TV show “Smash,” and Parsons Dance Company.

“It’s so nice to have more space, not to mention, have many more classes…especially tap, which up until now, we weren’t allowed to offer until after 5pm. The studios are beautiful, very well designed, and have their own nice touches. From the colorful lighting in Studio A, to the cubby holes, to the columns, which many of us have lovingly nicknamed ‘Big Ben.'” – Annie Ellersten (Work Study)

“It’s a fun addition to the already-fabulous studios. I love the floor, it makes barefoot dancing so smooth. And having the countless new classes is awesome!” – Katherine Boese (Professional Semester)

“I am absolutely thrilled that BDC has expanded. The new studios are beautiful and the additional space is wonderful. Additionally, I consider myself very fortunate to manage such a beautiful retail store surrounded by students eager to dance in the new space. We are proud to call this studio ‘home.'” – Lizz Picini (Retail Store)

Check out all of the added classes here!

Defining “Dance”

Early this year I attended a performance by Parsons Dance Company at the Joyce Theater in SoHo.  David Parsons’ choreography fuses modern dance technique and awareness with theatrical charm .  The concert included older Parsons repertoire as well as two world premieres, thereby exhibiting both the evolution of the company’s work and the traditional Parsons aesthetic.

However, I noticed that the joyful spirit and fluid composition of the Parsons repertoire was somewhat disconnected from the middle piece, “A Stray’s Lullaby,” choreographed by Katarzyna Skarpetowska (former Parsons dancer, freelance choreographer, native of Warsaw, Poland).   This guest-choreographed piece, which seems to illustrate the struggle of laboring families during the time of the Dust Bowl/Great Depression, reminded me of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”  The work is staged on four dancers, two male and two female, and includes either a solo or duet that essentially “tells” each dancer’s “story.”  An article in the New York Press explains,

“‘A Stray’s Lullaby’ is an intimate work, set for four dancers who portray down and out characters on the margin of society. Their journey is a personal one and presented without comment, yet it is clear they are on a quest for salvation. Their stories are the rich and wise examples of our own vulnerable natures. The piece offers no clear solution, it only opens a window on the way we face our private demons and how we strive to improve our human condition.”

This storyline clearly breaks away from Parsons’ own choreographic motifs: circularity, love, joy, etc.  Yet, what struck me the most about “A Stray’s Lullaby” was the first solo of the piece, performed by Christina Ilisije. Ilisije, dressed in dreary beige slacks, a cream tank, and black lace up shoes, “danced” to a song with a twangy singer, strumming banjo, and rather dismal lyrics.  She maintained a strict diagonal plane of movement across the stage and often repeated a phrase of traveling movement, as if struggling to get from one side of the stage to the other.  While the first work of the evening, “Round My World,” incorporated fluid, circular, natural movement from the dancers, this piece required Ilisije to contort her body in order to create intense, twisted, and harsh choreography.  The New York Post describes, “The foursome moves unsteadily at first to traffic noises that change to scratchy-voiced blues. As the lights change from golden to a smoky haze, one woman dives and claws her way through.”  Ilisije contorts her limbs into uncomfortable shapes (both for her and the audience watching), falls gawkily, and limps across the stage by literally dragging her legs.

I was surprised that in my online research of “A Stray’s Lullaby,” I could not find any articles or reviews that really critiqued the movement of the piece, as it is so unusual and disturbing, but also beautiful at the same time.  From my cheap seats in the side balcony, I scanned the audience to notice their reactions.  No one was ruffling through their programs or checking their text messages on their phones.  No one coughed or mumbled to their neighbor either.  The entire theater was completely attentive and engaged with the solo performance, admiring the juxtaposition of beauty and deformity within one dancer.

The hamster wheels in my mind began to race.  Why is it that this onstage soloist depicting unnatural bodily movement is admired while everyday men and women who are born with or develop such movement styles are not?  Why is a limp so intriguing and innovative onstage but so unsettling and awkward on the sidewalk?  Why is it acceptable to watch this movement onstage but it is disrespectful to stare in real life?

These are the very questions that Heidi Latsky asked herself when she began creating The GIMP Project back in 2008.  The work is performed by both physically-abled and disabled dancers and confronts audiences’ preconceptions about about art and performance.

GIMP is a word we’re taught not to use as we’re taught not to stare at people who have physical disabilities.

GIMP also means ‘fighting spirit’, ‘interwoven fabric’ and ‘trembling with ecstasy”- definitions that are at the heart of the work.

GIMP examines the uncompromising ways we are often identified or defined by our physicality.

GIMP challenges the notion of beauty as a standard artifact of “photo-shopped” perfection with a tangible sensuality, a touch of voyeurism and a new frame of reference as both performers AND audiences are acutely aware of being watched. (The GIMP Project press kit)

“GIMP is without doubt a gleaming milestone in the progress of contemporary dance and theater, proving that the term ‘disabled dancer’ is an oxymoron.” – Dance Magazine

Various dance styles preach precision, sameness, technique, and ideals of perfection.  But the question is – do these standards actually limit dance as an art form?

Heidi Latsky Dance envisions a society where:

  • all bodies are recognized as viable, fascinating and expressive instruments;
  • difference is upheld, not feared;
  • increased understanding and communication take the place of isolation, alienation and lack of contact;
  • people learn to “live in” their own skin and do not detach from their bodies because of external and internally assimilated judgments and conventional standards;
  • one is encouraged to “own” one’s body, value it and use it to be expressive and truthful in ways that are empowering, enriching and unique;
  • a strong work ethic is valued and implemented;
  • and a high standard of excellence is not only desired but is achieved through sustained work and focus.

Snack Attacks

As a dancer, your body is your instrument.  Fuel your body with the right foods to get the most out of your dancing.

When you have a long day of dance ahead of you:

  • Bowl of oatmeal with flaxseed and skim milk.
  • Greek yogurt with berries.
  • Poached egg with whole grain toast and an orange.

When you’re running to dance class/rehearsal:

  • 1/4 cup of mixed nuts and dried fruit.
  • Lara bar or Kind bar.

When you’re done with dance class/rehearsal:

  • Small banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter.
  • Apple with string cheese/baby bell cheese.

When you’re under the weather:

  • 1 cup tea with lemon and honey.
  • Foods high in Vitamin C: oranges, broccoli, and sweet peppers.
  • Chicken and vegetable soup.
When you want to build muscle:
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese with canned fruit (in water).
  • Canned salmon with whole grain crackers.
  • Protein shake with protein powder, raw oats, and flaxseed.

When you’re sore:

  • 1 cup low-fat chocolate milk.
  • Smoothie with blueberries, banana, and low-fat vanilla yogurt.
  • Foods high in potassium: raisins, melons, apricots, avocados, squash, beets, and dairy.

When you have butterflies/are feeling nervous:

  • 1/2 cup blueberries.
  • Small piece of dark chocolate.
  • Cup of herbal, decaffeinated tea.

Hard times on Broadway for the Hard of Hearing

Laura Grasso anxiously arrived at the Chernuchin Theater, one of the three venues of the 54th Street American Theater of Actors.  It was 7:30 p.m., which allowed her plenty of time to search for her seat and flip through the fresh-pressed Playbill before the curtain was to rise.

The theater was dim and intimate, with only 140 seats staring straight at the stage.  Her knees knocked against the seat in front of her and she tried to stealthily maneuver her elbows without disrupting her neighbors’ on the narrow armrests.  But at $20 a ticket, the compact confines of the Chernuchin were all part of the experience.

As theatergoers carefully shuffled to their seats, the audience’s anticipatory chatter buzzed throughout the black box.  She was excited for the show, the Tragedians of the City and Northwest Passage Theater Collective’s rendition of “Romeo and Juliet.”  The off-Broadway production was to stay true to the play’s authentic performance, with Early Modern English dialogue and an all-male cast.

But for Grasso, one of the 278 million people worldwide who have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears, the experience was a disappointment.

“It was a good thing I knew the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ because 90 percent of the time I felt like I missed a lot of the dialogue,” Grasso said.

At a young age, Grasso was diagnosed with bilateral, moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss. SNHL occurs when there is damage to one’s cochlea (inner ear) or to the nerves connecting the cochlea and the brain.  SNHL can rarely be medically or surgically treated, and while many patients use hearing aids to increase the volume of everyday sound, SNHL has a tendency to obfuscate speech.

“No, we don’t provide assisted listening devices,” replied the phone representative from the American Theater for Actors.  He snickered, “The Theater is small.  The audience is only about two feet from the stage, it’s very loud.”  But 90 percent of Americans with hearing difficulties – 7 percent of the entire US population – suffer from SNHL, where the issue is not so much volume as it is clarity.

“It was so exhausting that I eventually just had to sit back and watch, taking it in visually,” Grasso said.  “There is a difference between active and passive listening. Passive listening is what people are able to do, like breathing, it just happens naturally, effortlessly.  But hard of hearing individuals are required to listen actively, diligently identifying and processing sound and speech in order to fully comprehend a scene.”

An experienced freelance writer and content strategist, Laura Grasso began working as the Foundation and Corporation Gifts Manager at the Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) in New York City in February of 2011.  The CHC is a comprehensive clinic that provides hearing-related healthcare services such as hearing tests, hearing aids and assistive devices, and speech and language therapy. The CHC also sponsors outreach and public education projects to increase social awareness.

“I love theater and I would go much more frequently if it were more accessible to me,” Grasso said.

The Americans with Disabilities Act outlines that “Places of public accommodation must provide assistive listening systems, interpreters and other auxiliary aids unless it would constitute an ‘undue burden’ or ‘fundamental alteration’ of their services.”  Though some theaters like the Chernuchian do not offer assisted listening systems, most Broadway theaters do provide the technology.

But hearing loss is different from vision loss.  There is no numerical prescription – both the impediment and the treatment are individual.

“I know that assisted listening devices have helped a lot of people enjoy the theater experience, but they don’t work for everyone,” Grasso said.  Grasso saw “Billy Elliot: the musical” last year with her mother, who is also hard of hearing.  Grasso noted, “We used the assisted listening devices, but while the sound was louder, the dialogue was still muffled and slightly delayed.”

In 2003, the American Sign Language ASL version of “Big River” came to Broadway’s Roundabout Theatre Company.  Deaf West Theatre in North Hollywood created the adaptation in 2001, featuring both mainstream and deaf actors who signed the entire show while speaking, singing, and dancing.

While the ASL rendition of “Big River” was a success, teaching an entire Broadway cast to sign may not be the most efficient way to make a show accessible, especially for a show where performers must dance and sing simultaneously.  However, ASL is still employed to make Broadway more accessible.  The New York City-based non-profit organization Hands On produces up to thirty ASL-interpreted Broadway and off-Broadway performances each year.

As of Spring 2010, movie theaters in the United States became obligated to offer closed-captioning.  Most theaters opt for the Rear Window Captioning System, an inexpensive individual technology that projects subtitles of both the dialogue and action of a scene from the back of the theater onto a small mirror held by an audience member.  Captioning mandates, however, do not apply to live theater.

Captioned Broadway performances do exist, if you’re willing to seek them out.  The Theater Development Fund’s Access for Young Audiences program invites hard of hearing students to select, free Broadway matinee performances that are outfitted with both ASL interpreters and open-captioning on large screens on either side of the stage.

While Laura Grasso has not attended an ASL-interpreted or open-captioned Broadway show, she has experienced the technology in other live arts venues.  The CHC hosts a comedy night as a fundraiser for its outreach projects, public education and clinical services for the hard of hearing population in New York City.  This event is the only completely aurally accessible comedy performance in the city, boasting both ASL sign language interpretation and open-captioning.

“The comics are hilarious,” Grasso said.  “They make the accessibility part of the show by having the sign-language interpreters translate really silly or vulgar jokes.  And I didn’t find the ASL or captioning distracting because of their integration with the performance.”

Grasso is excited to attend “Tribes,” an off-Broadway play that explores the life of a deaf man and his struggle to be understood.  After receiving pressure from the hard of hearing community, the theater added open-captioned showings through the Theatre Development Fund.

Yet such synergy of accessibility and story line is unrealistic for most Broadway shows, and both ASL interpretation and open-captioning can be distracting to mainstream audiences.

The concept of closed-captioning has crept its way into a few progressive theaters that line the lighted Broadway.  Sound Associates, Inc. has provided assisted listening devices to Broadway audiences for over thirty years and recently developed I-Caption personal closed-captioning for deaf and hard of hearing patrons.

Sound Associates, Inc.’s I-Caption is “a state of the art wireless visual aid that provides verbatim closed captions in real time for live theatrical performances or public events.  This fully automated system displays dialogue, lyrics, and sound effects on a handheld display, assisting the hearing impaired patron to better understand the plot of a theatrical production or public event.

“The beauty of live performance is that no show is the same,” said Mark Annunziato, Vice President of Operations at Sound Associates, Inc.  “I-Caption is automated, timed to the show. The technology utilizes show controls like lighting, sound, music and set change cues to stay in real time with the show.”

The technology exists – but real implementation of the technology is another story.  Currently only four of the forty Broadway shows are fully equipped with I-Caption.  Not surprisingly, these four theaters house the most popular and profitable musicals: “The Book of Mormon” at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, “Jersey Boys” at the August Wilson Theatre, “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre, and “Mamma Mia!” at the Cadillac Winter Garden Theatre.

“It’s not cheap,” Annunziato said of the technology, which runs between five and six hundred dollars per device.  “Production has to pay for the implementation of I-Caption.  Some shows like ‘Jersey Boys’ expect a long run and can upfront the costs, but that’s not usually the case.”

Captioning for movies is different, a lot easier and a lot cheaper.  Movies are in time code — they run digitally or on film at a set time.  Captions can just be added as a layer on top of the media because everything happens in specific time and space.

Mandating I-Caption for live theater would require a lot of money, both to pay for the technology itself and to hire specialized staff.  Most movies undergo at least a year of editing before they are released in theaters.  I-Caption has a much quicker turn-around – implementation can only begin after a Broadway show has gone through technical rehearsals with lighting, sound, music and set change cues organized.  And once the show opens, cues often change – lead actors switch, a music number is added, among other possible changes – and I-Caption must adapt as well.

In 2005 Sound Associates, Inc. was presented with the Secretary’s Highest Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Yet seven years after the inception of I-Caption, 90 percent of Broadway theaters remain aurally under-accessible.

“We keep making advancements to lower the costs,” Annunziato said. “We’re fine-tuning the technology so that we can speed up the process of implementation from a few months to a few weeks. It’s not a moneymaking venture; it’s about opening doors to audiences through technology.  We feel that every performance should be accessible for everyone, at every show, in every seat.”

“I do hope to see a Broadway performance with I-Caption technology because I would really understand what was going on,” Laura Grasso said. “Yet like subtitles of a film, I worry that the captioning would be visually distracting from the action of the scene.”

I-Caption has received its share of criticism from theater patrons.  I-Caption devices are near field (close), and a person’s eyes have to adjust from looking at the screen to looking at the stage.  Critics claim that ASL interpreters or open-captioning near the stage are less distracting and do not disclose if audience members have disabilities.

Recently, Sound Associates, Inc. has been working to equip Sony’s new subtitle eyeglasses with I-Caption services for live theater.  Though still a physical device, these new subtitle specs are sure to spark a new wave in live theater accessibility.

2012 Choreographer’s Canvas

Last weekend’s Choreographer’s Canvas, produced by The Group Theatre Too, LLC (GTT) showcased choreographers and dancers of all ages and styles to a sold-out crowd at the Manhattan Movement Arts Center.  The evening also included a touching tribute to the late Tony Stevens.

The GTT, founded in 2003 by Michael Blevins and BDC’s own Justin Boccitto, aspires to “encourage diversity and the exploration of the human experience through theater, dance, and music.”

Broadway Dance Center was well represented at the show, not only in the audience but also on stage and behind the scenes.  Notable performances included works by BDC faculty such as Sue Samuels, Ginger Cox, Jared Jenkins, Crystal Chapman, and Lainie Munro.