Theater of the Mind Denver DCPA Accessibility Review
Recently, I was invited to attend an audio described presentation of Theater of the Mind, a multisensorial journey through the eclectic mind of Academy, Grammy, and Tony Award-winning artist David Byrne. Co-created with writer Mala Gaonkar, Theater of the Mind is a unique experience which invites participation and embraces interaction from its attendees. Inspired by historical and current neuroscience research, Theater of the Mind presents an immersive journey into the processes surrounding the building of our sense of self and challenges our perceptions of that world view. While many of the aspects of the show are visual-centric, the team did an admirable job of making the content accessible for those who are blind and visually impaired.
Theater of the Mind’s show dates at Denver’s York Street Yards have recently been extended through January 22nd, 2023, and the next showing which includes Audio Descriptions will be on Saturday, January 14 at 3:15 pm.
Theater of the Mind
At showtime, guests assembled in the lobby and were asked to put away or leave behind (in provided lockers) all cell phones and wearable tech. I loved this and appreciated that there would not be constant notification sounds going off, allowing the guests to focus on enjoying the show.
Audience members are limited to 16 for each showtime, and guests follow their guide through each room of the 15,000 square-foot installation space. Each location visited during the 75-minute presentation treated attendees to immersive audio, visual, tactile and taste sensations.
From the outset, the Theater of the Mind experience felt very personalized, with the cast member who would be delivering the audio descriptions introducing herself to each guest. Audience members were given parts to play during the performance, and the materials each person was given were offered in braille.
The Theater of the Mind experience is an inherently visual one, but care was taken to provide full descriptions of each room we visited during the performance, including rich descriptions of the furniture, wall coverings and lighting. Where the progression of the story focused on a visual aspect, the descriptions provided just enough information to give the sight impaired guests the information they needed to enjoy the show, but still maintain the joy of wonder and exploration as the story progressed.
Guides were adept at pointing out changes in elevation and small ramps during the times guests were moving from room to room in the installation. Guides and other cast members were also very good at informing the guests of the direction they needed to go to get to the next room.
For guests who are mobility impaired, wheelchair accessibility appeared to be good. We didn’t have anyone with a wheelchair, but ramps and elevation changes in the floor were small and should be easy to navigate. Passages were wide enough to comfortably traverse with a mobility aid, and the rooms provided ample space to move.
While I was unfortunately not able to fully appreciate the visual aspect of the show, my wife explained each visual component she saw, and expressed her enjoyment. Each room had a distinct visual component, and light often played a large part in this.
There were several opportunities throughout the show to touch explore areas of the rooms, and the guides did an admirable job of letting those who were totally blind know exactly what they were going to be touching – well done.
Each room had a unique sound scene in the installation. Most of the ambient sounds were subtle and not overly loud and obtrusive. Smells also played a key part in the experience, and as with the ambient sounds, the smells were not overpowering and added to the feeling of the scene rather than detracting from it.
I commend The Denver Center for the Performing arts and the cast members of the Theater of the Mind for making accessibility for their visual-centric performances a priority. The Theater of the Mind performance was equally entertaining and thought provoking. As someone who appreciates the work of David Byrne, I loved the candid glimpse into his life and memories.
“Ted’s journey into the landscape of the human body is a marvelous celebration of all that is physical, sensual and diverse
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About the author
Ted Tahquechi is a blind photographer, travel influencer, disability advocate and photo educator based in Denver, Colorado. You can see more of Ted’s work at www.tahquechi.com
Ted operates Blind Travels, a travel blog designed specifically to empower blind and visually impaired travelers. https://www.blindtravels.com/
Ted’s body-positive Landscapes of the Body project has been shown all over the world, learn more about this intriguing collection of photographic work at: https://www.bodyscapes.photography/
Questions or comments? Feel free to email Ted at: firstname.lastname@example.org