Essential Theatre Launches Project to Connect with Hearing Impaired Audience Members

By: Jul. 13, 2013
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This summer brings us the 15th annual Essential Theatre play festival, running July 12-Aug 11 at Actor's Express Theatre. You've probably come to appreciate Essential Theatre for its unflagging support of Georgia writers and, frankly, some of the best quality theatre for some of the most affordable ticket prices in Atlanta. But this summer, Essential's got something new up its sleeve.

"Connecting with Deaf Audiences" is Essential's newest initiative to push the boundaries of theatre accessibility and inclusiveness. "Essential's been committed to serving Georgia audiences throughout our twenty-five year history," says founding artistic director Peter Hardy, "and we're thrilled about the new opportunities we're able to offer this summer through this project."

Several theatres in town already provide ASL interpreters for designated performances during their run, and Essential is pleased to be joining their ranks with this summer's festival. But that's just the beginning. Essential is also extending interpretation services for their Meet the Playwright talkback series as well as conducting a focus group following the close of the festival to develop future programming goals.

Amy Cohen Efron, a local Deaf Community Activist, comments, "I have been to see shows at venues such as the Fox Theater and the Alliance Theater, but I have long been wanting to engage with a more locally-based theatre here in our home town, and to have a chance to exchange ideas with that theatre. Now Essential Theatre has extended that invitation...I am truly excited."

"We think this work is exciting and important," says Hardy, reiterating Essential's commitment to improving cultural opportunities for the Deaf in Georgia. "We've noticed a pattern of large productions providing interpreters at performances, and we wanted to bring that accessibility to our festival."

Interpreted performances and talkbacks will take place on the following dates. Interpretation services graciously provide by Stagehands VSA Arts of Georgia. Reservations can be made online at

- July 28, 7pm - Stray Dogs by Matthew Myers, winner of the 2013 Essential Playwriting Award. Interpreters: Donna Flanders and Bruce Finkbone

- Aug 4, 7pm - Mysterious Connections by Peter Hardy, workshopped at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference. Interpreters: Jessie Romer and Nancy Holdren

- Aug 8, 8pm - Swimming with Jellyfish by Katie Grant Shalin. Interpreters: Jessie Romer and Nancy Holdren

About Essential Theatre: Essential Theatre has been bringing exciting, challenging new plays to Atlanta since 1988 and producing the Essential Theatre Play Festival, a repertory of regional and world premieres, since 1999. This summer is their second festival featuring all Georgia playwrights. To find out more about this summer's programming, to include the Connecting with Deaf Audiences initiative, visit or visit them on Facebook


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