Photo: Members of the Audio Description Learning Network outside of a training event hosted by 1812 Productions at Plays & Players Theatre. Photo by John Flak.
At People's Light, at least one performance per production features audio description, which exists to make live events more accessible and enjoyable for those who are blind/low vision/visually impaired. Through a radio-enabled microphone, an audio describer details setting, movement, character appearance, costumes – anything visual that is needed to understand the play – and attendees listen via headphones and receivers. However, there are very few active audio describers regularly serving Philadelphia theatres. Nicole Sardella is the preeminent audio describer in our area, and has been providing this service for many theatrical, dance, and opera productions over the last 11 years.
To expand and diversify the pool of audio describers in the Philadelphia region, our Director of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility) Leigh Jackson joined forces with Hedgerow Theatre, the Wilma Theater, and 1812 Productions to form The Audio Description Learning Network (ADLN) in 2023. The ADLN received a $25,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Council On the Arts to purchase audio description equipment for the member theatres and train four new BIPOC/LGBTQ+ audio describers as ADLN Fellows: Joe Barsanti, Beth Feldman Brandt, Gina Pisasale, and Felicia Teter.
We're thrilled to have Beth Feldman Brandt as the inaugural ADLN Fellow at People’s Light! Having completed the initial training period with the ADLN, Beth will audio describe the Relaxed Performance of SMALL on January 28th. To prepare, Beth reviewed the script and a video of the production, and then attended several performances to determine what kind of description to provide and when to provide it. She was mentored by Nicole Sardella and also worked with Natanya Sortland, a theatregoer and friend of People's Light who served as Beth’s blind/low vision coach, offering suggestions on what works best for patrons like herself who use audio description. After SMALL, Beth will provide audio description at the Relaxed Performance of the ripple, the wave that carried me home on March 17th.
Beth is also a published poet and the Executive Director of the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, which provides grants and training for community-driven arts education programs and teaching artists in the Philadelphia Region. We're grateful and excited that Beth has devoted her time and passion to honing this new skill that will help our audiences enjoy plays to the fullest.
Beth Feldman Brandt (she/they) is an arts advocate and wordsmith who is honored to be a member of the first cohort of the Audio Description Learning Network Fellows. Beth’s day job as Executive Director of the Bartol Foundation includes providing grants and training for community-driven arts education programs and teaching artists in Philadelphia and beyond. Beth is the author of three books of poetry, as well as the creator, in collaboration with the late Monnette Sudler, of RetroLove, an evening-length performance of poetry, song and jazz celebrating relationships before the Internet.
Additional image details: Photo of audio description equipment by John Flak. Headshot courtesy of Beth Feldman Brandt.