Accessibility in Theatre: Live Streaming

Erin Karll

  • OnStage Missouri Columnist

Recently the off-Broadway play “Daddy Long Legs” live streamed a production. Playbill, via Facebook, streamed the song “Never Can Say Goodbye” from the musical “Disaster”. “She Loves Me” was streamed from Studio 54 in its entirety making history as the first Broadway show to be live streamed thanks to The phenomenon “Hamilton” was recently filmed also, although there is no word on when or where this footage will be used.  As it was stated in the pre-show introduction of “She Loves Me” Broadway is live every time eight times a week, and this trend could lead to something incredible.  Theatres could use live streaming to increase accessibility, not only for those who cannot afford to travel to New York City, but for those who need assistance once they arrive in the building.

While none of the above examples included closed captioning, that is not far off in the future. I ask when the first launched if they would provide CC with their videos. They replied to my Facebook post by saying they could not at this time, but hoped to soon. These captions could not only assist the deaf, but also include other languages so international fans could watch their favorite shows. Once the captioning is set up, more aids can be added. For example, American Sign Language interpreters in a split screen. Also a descriptive audio track could be added for the blind.

Those plans are not even touching on the need for those theatre fans that have physical limitations that can make going out to a show unimaginable. Trying to navigate the big apple in a wheelchair or crunches would be enough to deter the even the diehard fans. The Theatre Development Fund host Autistic friendly theatre nights. Being able to just pull up a show on your phone or computer and host a group in a home setting would be a great way to attend a show. The joy of show tunes without the fear of not having access, what a wonderful concept! 

My mind is filled with many ideas on how this hopefully successful new trend can help theatre fans all over the world connect and access their favorite art form. What are some other ideas on why live streaming is great for the theatre industry? 

The more shows that establish streaming and filming rights for public release the easier it will be to set-up accessibility requirements and aids. Nothing can compare to the feeling of sitting in a dark theatre watching actors, musicians, and crew create live, but these glimpses into the theatre will go a long way to connect the theatre world. That connection is what makes the theatre a unique experience. Live streaming could give many the opportunity to join a whole new world.

Catch an encore stream of “She Loves Me” on until July 10th, and then look for it to be released in your local cinema later this fall. Watch out for more shows to join in the live streaming trend. Contact streaming websites and ask about captioning. Support those shows that are making an effort to step outside the ten blocks of the big apple.  These are a few things you can do now to help accessibility in the future. I’ll see you at the theatre, which may just be my living room.