Deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people are potential theatregoers – we just need to persuade them that our events have something to offer.
What patrons say …
“I think it’s going to be too expensive.”
“I’ve never been before – don’t think I’ll enjoy it.”
“The staff don’t know how to communicate properly – they’re always in a rush.”
“It’s too difficult to find the right information.”
“They’re always on a weekday matinee and I work.”
“I didn’t know until recently that any performances at theatre are captioned.”
Going to the theatre needs to be seen as something enjoyable, not hard work.
Some deaf people will have little to no experience of live theatre, while others may have been keen attenders who now, later in life, are having difficulty hearing the performers and think theatre is something they can no longer continue to enjoy.
We do need to target deaf non-attenders separately to existing theatregoers who have sensory impairments, and this may include answering questions such as “what is theatre?”, “will I enjoy it?” as well as “how will it work for me?”
During the See a Voice project we ran specific venue open days called Discover Theatrefor local deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people where they found out more about what theatre, and theatre captioning, is all about. It gave participants an introduction to the venue, the assisted services available, ways they could participate and a chance to meet the staff who are there to make their visit an enjoyable one.
What you can do …
Consider what some of the barriers to attendance are and how your marketing strategies might help overcome them:
• Let groups know about any discounted tickets you may offer.
• Communicate what a visit to your venue is like; what sort of experience will they have?
• Train frontline staff so that you can confidently promote a policy of clear communication at all times.
• Make sure your brochures and websites have clearly identifiable sources of information.
• Consider varying the days and times you offer assisted performances and consult your local audience about their preferences.
• Advertise your captioned performances to EVERYONE.
Going to talk to local groups, deaf, deafened and hard of hearing clubs or at events, such as local information fairs, is a great way of creating word of mouth. You can use it as an opportunity to introduce captioning, explaining what it is and how it works, as well as promoting forthcoming productions. Understanding the particular needs of your customers and building good personal relationships between local groups and your venue is the key to developing and retaining an audience. Why not invite a local group to hold an event at your venue or offer to give them a backstage tour?