A Captioning Commotion

Broadway actress mistakes captioning device for illegal recording


Photo provided by flickr.com

Actress Lillias White at a conference

On the night of Oct. 12, Samantha Coleman posted an Instagram video describing her “horrifying and embarrassing experience” at a Broadway production of “Hadestown.” During the performance, Coleman was publicly heckled by actress Lillias White for using a closed captioning device, which she mistook Coleman to be illegally recording the show with. The captioning mechanism was provided by the theater itself, which could be used by attaching it to a phone.

Coleman took to social media to share her story, with the goal of spreading awareness of the inaccessibility in the field of theatre.

“Systemically [theater] is an exclusionary space for people who are disabled, has always been,” Coleman said in her Instagram post. “This is just shining a light on that. If we do not address the underlying issues of inequality in theatre, we will never truly progress as an industry,” all according to deadline.com.

White reprimanded the hard of hearing woman not once, but twice during the performance, putting the actress along with the production under fire. The Jujamcyn Theaters have since then contacted Coleman to apologize for the incident, along with “Hadestown” offering tickets for her to come see the show again to compensate for the dispute.

“We have a commitment to accessibility in all forms,” a Jujamcyn Theaters spokesperson said in an interview with NBC New York. “The incident yesterday is a reminder that this is an ongoing process needing constant revisiting and renewal. We are reviewing our policies and internal protocols to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Although the exploit seems to be a truthful error, Coleman is determined to speak out against the injustice towards disabled people within the theater community.

“I don’t think this is inherently [White’s] malice,” Coleman said. “I think it’s a misunderstanding, but we still need to talk about it.”

Other members of the hearing loss community have shown empathy towards Coleman’s experience, sending condolences to her online. Many have also expressed their gratitude that the issue is being faced head-on, allowing for theaters to be more open and accepting of not only new technology, but respecting the people who need it, all according to nbcnewyork.com.