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A new frontier in audio description (for me)

In late February, I was contacted by the Music School at DePaul University and given the opportunity to provide audio description for their production of two short operas: “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi.” My contact person was the Music School's director of marketing, who told me that a group of audience members had contacted the school and requested that the service be provided. Having never described an opera, I leapt at the chance.

A few days later, I was contacted by Roosevelt University. They had had a request that THEIR upcoming opera, “L'enfant et Les Sortileges,” be audio described. I can't say for sure, but I suspect the same group of patrons decided to make a season of it. Roosevelt reached out to DePaul, DePaul recommended me, and here we are. I've been doing audio description for over ten years and a brand-new challenge presented itself, twice over.

At this writing, I've completed the job at DePaul, and have yet to preview at Roosevelt. Job #1 went well. The biggest difference (and it's huge) is that the story is being delivered in a language my listeners don't understand. I’m therefore responsible for not only describing the visual elements of the production, but reading some of the super-titles projected so that my listeners are able to follow the plot. This balance proved much easier to strike in “Suor Angelica,” in which many women wear similar and simple nun’s habits and don’t move around terribly much, than in “Gianni Schicchi,” in which a large and varied group of brightly clad people engage in some fantastic physical comedy. At DePaul, I worked from a printed translation. At Roosevelt, I will be working from an actual vocal score. I read music decently, so I’m interested to see how that difference allows me better time my description.

I’m thrilled that I’ve gotten to gig as an audio describer for over ten years. As venues become more committed to accessibility, and as those who use description raise their voices and request services, I hope I get to keep finding new ways to work and new challenges to meet.

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