Empowerment. Engagement. Authenticity.

VocalEye Virtual Test Drive - Assassinating Thomson

Shawn looking at Zoom attendees on a monitor before the show

When you're in the business of live theatre and a pandemic makes public gatherings impossible, what do you do? Why, bring live theatre – almost live theatre – to your patrons in their own homes, of course.

Okay, but what if you're in the business of describing live theatre to people with vision loss?

Same as above – bring the theatre experience to them.

Same pre-show notes and attention to accessibility.

Minus the cool touch tours, unfortunately.

Touch tours are definitely on the top of my bucket list for when this virus is safely dealt with, by the way.

Until then, I am content to enjoy presentations like the one hosted by VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society on Sunday, May 24. VocalEye describes live theatre to those with vision loss and invited actor Bruce Horak to do a pre-and-post show talk around his one-man production, Assassinating Thomson.

Horak is himself an artist and musician, among other things, with vision loss.

Somehow, without missing a beat in his relating of the myths and mystery surrounding the death of artist Tom Thomson in 1917, Horak described his vision loss and his bungling of trying to live a sighted life, shared heart-wrenching details of his father's struggle with cancer, told of his development as a portrait artist and created a multicoloured representation of a laptop screen featuring indistinct faces.

Horak explained that his portraits are meant to show how he perceives the world with his remaining nine percent vision.

I give him a 20/20.

VocalEye deserves a 20/20 as well.

These are changing times. We cannot hit pause wishing for a past normal that may never return. As Bruce Horak might put it, we cannot ignore the negative space around an object because it is that negative space that breathes shape into that very object.

It takes vision to adapt, to be the first to plunge into unfamiliar waters to fill that ever-changing void between visual and verbal.

Not too unlike an artist afraid to make that first brushstroke on blank canvas.

Or VocalEye Descriptive Arts Society doing their first live description of theatre ten years ago.

The sands are shifting underfoot and we must learn to balance on new terrain.

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