Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director) announced that it has been awarded the 2010 American Council of the Blind/Audio Description Project Award for Achievement in Performing Arts for their audio-description program and unwavering commitment to the blind and those with vision loss. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is a national organization of blind, visually impaired and sighted individuals whose purpose is to work toward independence, security, equality of opportunity, and improved quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. The Audio-Description Project (formerly Audio Description International) is dedicated to providing quality descriptive services of theatre, television and films. The award was given in Phoenix on July 14 as part of the American Council of the Blind's annual conference.
Paper Mill Playhouse began serving those with vision loss in 1987 by being one of the first in the area to provide regularly scheduled audio description. Audio description is the live objective translation of the visual action of a play in between lines of dialogue and/or lyrics. Patrons utilizing this service use a personal receiver to listen to a trained professional describer. Paper Mill Playhouse also offers free pre-show Sensory Seminars. Seminars provide an opportunity for the blind or visually impaired patron to touch key props and costumes, as well as hear a detailed description of the visual elements of the production such as sets, costumes, and lighting. Performers also participate to provide voice recognition. Braille and large print programs round out Paper Mill Playhouse's array of services for the blind.
Michael T. Mooney, Paper Mill Playhouse's Manager of Outreach and Access Programs, is very grateful for the recognition, saying "As with everything, Paper Mill strives to be a leader in Audio-Description, training and mentoring other theatres throughout the state and nationally. So I'm really excited about this award because it is a testament to the hard work of our Describers as well as a tribute to Paper Mill Playhouse's long-standing commitment to cultural arts access."
The upcoming season will feature audio descriptions of Hairspray (October 16 & 17), Les Miserables (December 18 & 19), The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (February 12 & 13), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (April 9 & 10) and Curtains (May 21 & 22). All shows start at 1:30pm with free Sensory Seminars at noon. For more information about these or any of Paper Mill's Access Services, please contact Mr. Mooney at 973.379.3636 x2666. For tickets to these productions, please call the box office at 973.376.4343.
Paper Mill Playhouse's commitment to accessibility was recognized three times in the past year, including two national awards: the 2009 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the 2009 MetLife Award for Innovation and Excellence in Access. In 2010, Paper Mill received the Cultural Access Network's "Sustainer Award" in recognition of its commitment and leadership. Access Services are widely available, regularly scheduled, publicized, and provided at no extra cost to approximately 5,000 patrons and students annually. All individuals have the opportunity to experience quality live theater with dignity and independence.
Paper Mill Playhouse Access programming is generously supported by MetLife Foundation, C.R. Bard Foundation, Inc., The William G. & Helen C. Hoffman Foundation, Fund for the New Jersey Blind, and Cultural Access Network of New Jersey.