Theater fans can attend plays and other productions without regard to disability, thanks to accessible accommodations built into the theatre's design.
"We designed the theatre with our patrons in mind," said Tom Grabowski, University technical director. "We knew we had faithful patrons who loved the theatre, but they had a hard time physically reaching the front seats where they needed to sit because of hearing problems.
"So, the University Theatre was designed with easy inclines, wide doors and a special entrance so those with the greatest degree of immobility had the shortest distance to travel."
Located in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building, the theatre has ramp access for wheelchairs, and a wheelchair and stretcher are available for emergencies. Patrons enter the theatre through a wide set of double doors leading to a temporary front row of seats.
For each performance, portable seats are arranged according to audience needs. For instance, there may be a space for a stretcher, with seats on either side for the patron's companions. In another area, wheelchair space is provided with seating for other guests.
Further, a tall wooden baffle reflects sound to assist those requiring special seating. Patrons also can borrow a small portable unit with personal volume control free from the box office.
Dr. James Hawley, Department of Communication associate professor,said installation of the personal listening system was ready for the first show of the Summer Stock season, "What I Did Last Summer," which ran June 21-25. Hawley was on the original design team that worked with architects in preparing theatre specifications.
The listening device is the size of a cigarette box and has earplugs. It is lightweight, easy to use and fits in a pocket.
Meanwhile, patrons requiring American Sign Language can use a TDD telephone in the box office for making reservations, said Marissa Hernandez, box office manager. Requests must be made at least five days in advance.
Braille programs also can be arranged for patrons, Hernandez said.
"The University has a strong commitment to making all of its facilities as accessible as possible to every one," she said. "It has been very supportive of our efforts to increase our audience adaptability."
Inside the theater, seats have a steeper rise, allowing for better visibility, said designer Kate Ellis. This feature is especially important for children, who will be the primary audience for Ellis' direction of "Androcles and the Lion" (July 5-9).
For information on theatre accessibility or for production reservations and information, call 956/381-3581.