Maryann and Paul Migliorelli are longtime season ticket holders at the Boulder's Dinner Theater, but miss some of the action because they're both visually impaired.
So they began lobbying for the theater to provide an auditory description service to help them more fully experience the performances, as they have at productions they've attended in Denver.
"Without descriptions, the visual gags and the fabulousness of the costumes and sets are totally missing," said Maryann Migliorelli, who's the president of the National Federation of the Blind's Boulder Valley chapter. This really fills in the gaps for us in a really important way."
On Sunday, the theatre offered its first show with auditory descriptions for a performance of "Shrek the Musical." About five patrons requested headsets.
Michael Duran, Boulder's Dinner Theater artistic director and producer, said offering auditory descriptions was a good next step after recently installing a "loop" system so patrons who are hearing impaired can listen to an amplified version of shows.
The descriptions were provided by Bonnie Barlow, who started by working for the Project for Very Special Arts Colorado. When the project stopped funding auditory descriptions to focus on dance, she started her own business. The Denver-based company provides descriptions for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado and even rodeos.
She said goal is to provide objective descriptions that are precise — and prioritized so she keep up with the action. To prepare, she previews shows first, taking note of physical humor, costumes and sets.
For "Shrek" on Sunday, she started before the show by reading the program and providing descriptions of the different scenes and the characters.
She noted Fiona's slender form and long, shimmering green dress, for example, and clued her audience in to fact that the actor playing the diminutive Lord Farquaad walks on his knees. She also described the dragon, a large puppet that requires four people to control.
Sunday's performance was David Law's first experience with audio description. He gave both the musical and the description good reviews.
"Actions, performed and narrated, blended well so the usual need to concentrate in order to understand what's happening was not necessary," he said. "I could just enjoy the show."
Maryann Migliorelli added that the show with auditory descriptions was "awesome."
"There were a lot of things I didn't know, even after watching it with a friend who's an actor," she said. "Boulder's Dinner Theater is stepping up to the plate to make theater accessible to the disability community."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Amy Bounds at 303-473-1341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.