‘Hadestown’ & Jujamcyn Theaters Apologize And Reaffirm “Commitment To Accessibility” After Actor Calls Out Hearing-Impaired Audience Member Using Captioning Device

‘Hadestown’ & Jujamcyn Theaters Apologize And Reaffirm “Commitment To Accessibility” After Actor Calls Out Hearing-Impaired Audience Member Using Captioning Device

October 13, 2022

The producers of Broadway’s Hadestown and Jujamcyn Theaters have apologized to an audience member with hearing loss whose use of a captioning device drew repeated onstage reprimands from one of the musical’s stars who mistakenly assumed the device was recording the performance.

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Audience member Samantha Coleman posted a tearful Instagram video last night describing the “horrifying and embarrassing experience” of being called out by Lillias White from the stage “not once but twice, at least.” She said the incident was both hurtful and “super embarrassing” and left her feeling “ostracized and publicly ridiculed.”

Coleman, who was seated in the front row at the Jujamcyn-owned Walter Kerr Theatre, acknowledged that she didn’t believe White acted out of malice but rather misunderstanding. “But we still need to talk about it,” Coleman said.

White joined the show just last month, succeeding André De Shields in the role of Hermes.

Watch Coleman’s Instagram video below.

In a statement provided to Deadline, the musical’s producers, along with Jujamcyn, affirmed their “commitment to accessibility in all forms.”

“The incident yesterday is a reminder that this is an ongoing process needing constant revisiting and renewal,” the statement continues. “Providing access is also about educating everyone in the theater about how we can be more supportive. We are reviewing our policies and internal protocols to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“We extend our deepest apologies to Samantha,” it continues, “and extend our gratitude to her for sharing her experience so that it can be addressed.”

A spokesperson for Hadestown said the production “also connected directly with Samantha earlier today to convey their apologies and thank her directly for bringing this to their attention.”

Coleman didn’t specifically identify the type of captioning device she used, but Broadway theaters are equipped with relatively new captioning technology — most widely the Shubert-owned GalaPro system — that can be accessed via smartphone apps. The app is designed to lessen screen light for in-theater use to minimize audience distraction, but from the stage its use on a smartphone might be mistaken for illegal recording.

In a written statement accompanying her Instagram video, Coleman writes that she went public with the incident to “prevent another horrifying and embarrassing experience for someone else.” She called the experience “my worst fear, and it was realized. i don’t know if/when i’ll feel comfortable using a captioning devices again.”

Theater, she writes, “systemically is an exclusionary space for people who are disabled, has always been. this is just shining a light to that. if we do not address the underlying issues of inequality in theatre, we will never truly progress as an industry. we are just now reaching the technological peak, where tech can allow more people to see & understand theatre. as we continue to make inclusionary progress in the audience tech, how do we create an equitable experience for every person in the building? can we push ourselves, to strive to do better? can we allow everyone to experience theatre?”

A post shared by samantha coleman (@samicat)

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