A new volunteer service will allow visually impaired people to better enjoy Lied Center performances.
The Lied Center and the Audio-Reader Network have combined to bring the sights and sounds of performances to visually impaired people.
Through a new volunteer service called Audio Description, visually impaired people may now hear what others are seeing during performances.
"We're really excited about this," said Audio-Reader Network program manager Lori Miller.
"It started in Washington, D.C., and it has since been in use in New York, Ohio, Houston, Austin and several other cities."
As visitors enter the Lied Center, they will receive a set of cordless FM headphones in which they will hear a description of what is happening on stage.
"It's offered free of charge by the Lied Center," Miller said. "I think they have something like 30 units."
Aside from the obstacle of providing the two channel hearing system that is required for Audio Description, Miller said finding someone to train volunteer describers was also difficult.
Luckily, the Audio-Reader Network came upon Tom Klocke of the Kansas Arts Commission.
"He did this in New York City, and since he came to Kansas, he hasn't really done it again," Miller said.
"The Kansas Arts Commission is basically loaning him to us for three days. And that's what really saved us for doing this. We were thinking about fund raising and recruiting the person to train volunteers."
Klocke will be conducting auditions for anyone interested in being an audio describer Friday and Saturday at the Audio-Reader Network at Kansas University.
"We're going to audition approximately 20 people, and then from that, Tom will choose eight that will be trained," Miller said.
"I think the biggest thing is to just be interested in theater, because of the time that will be spent there -- probably as much as the performers themselves."
Peg Sampson has worked in both the Lawrence and Baldwin Community Theaters.
She's hoping to be one of the eight volunteer audio describers chosen to be trained.
"It combines everything I love," Sampson said. "I love the theater, I love going to the theater and I think that it would be fabulous to watch professionals and doing this."
Sampson has been an Audio-Reader volunteer for that past year and a half.
"I have tremendous sympathy and empathy for people who have lost their sight or have impaired vision," Sampson said.
From an audience member's perspective, Lynda Canaday said, she knows how beneficial a service like Audio Describer can be.
"It's very beneficial," Canaday said. "All of the things that a sighted person sees is described ... even down to the pace of when someone walks around the room."
Before moving to Lawrence from California in 1993, Canaday was an audience member for a CBS test of Audio Describer for television.
"I was in the audience for a television series with Dick Van Patten. I can't remember the series, but he played a man who was loosing his sight," Canaday said.
"We had on earphones, and out of one side we would hear the actual program and then over that you would hear the descriptions."
Canaday said she was disappointed that the Audio Describer tested for television by CBS didn't gain popularity.
"Those who have had vision can recall on their memory of colors and other things," Canaday said. "But for those of us who have never had vision, it adds a whole new dimension."
While Canaday said the concept of having every aspect of a performance described to you can be hard to imagine, she said you just have to hear it to believe it.
"I think it will be a benefit for all people with impaired vision," Canaday said. "I think people will get a lot out of it once they experience it."