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May 6, 2004

Hand-Held Captioning Device Now Available to the Deaf for Broadway's 'Little Shop of Horrors'

From: Yahoo News (press release) - May 6, 2004

Sound Associates' Captioner(TM) Makes All Performances Deaf-Accessible from Any Seat in the House

NEW YORK, May 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Until now deaf theatre patrons have only had access to a few signed or captioned performances, possibly restricting their ability to attend.

To make all performances accessible the new Broadway production of "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Virginia Theatre is offering the Captioner(TM) from Sound Associates, Inc., the hand-held wireless, color monitor that displays dialogue and lyrics in text, in real time from any seat in the house.

"Understanding song lyrics which further the dramatic action is crucial to enjoying a play like Little Shop of Horrors where one of the main characters isn't even a person," said T. Richard Fitzgerald, inventor of the system and sound designer for the show, "You can't lip read Audrey II the carnivorous plant!"

The system features the Captioner, a 4" X 4" wireless color video monitor contained in a leather case that can be used in any seat by patrons unable to hear the performance. The captions are automated and synchronized with the show's lighting cues to accommodate pacing variations from performance to performance.

"Our hand-held captioning system offers deaf theatre patrons the option of following onstage dialogue and song lyrics conveniently and unobtrusively," said Fitzgerald, who is also president of Sound Associates, Inc.

The Captioner displays dialogue and song lyrics word-for-word as the play progresses. In theatres with the system patrons merely request the Captioner, free of charge, in the theatre lobby and take it to whatever seat they happen to have. Thanks to a polarized filter, nearby patrons are not distracted by light or moving text.

The Captioner was first introduced in August for Deaf West Theatre and Roundabout Theatre Company's Broadway Musical Big River. "We're committed to expanding access for everyone to enjoy live theatre and this is another tool to achieve that goal," Fitzgerald said.

T. Richard Fitzgerald received a 1980 "Tony" for his design of the widely used Infrared Listening System to aid hearing-impaired patrons. He designed the sound for numerous Broadway shows including "Annie"; "42nd Street"; "Zorba"; "The King And I"; "Beauty And The Beast"; "Peter Pan", "Sly Fox" and "Raisin In The Sun."

For over fifty years Sound Associates has been supplying sound equipment to the performance industry, offering the best in assistive listening for professional or personal use, and is synonymous with infrared listening.

Source: Sound Associates, Inc.

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