Why Go To See a Show When You Have Lost Most of Your Sight?

Simba the Lion King faces the evil Scar in the current production of This is the Lion King
Simba the Lion King faces the evil Scar in the current production of This is the Lion King

Going to a show; a musical, a play, dance show or opera can be too painful in the first years after vision loss. There’s no doubt that seeing the stage set, the actors and their gestures perhaps even their expressions, is a great part of the enjoyment. Even watching the audience can be fun. Some theaters do now  offer an occasional service called a described performance, which may help you enjoy shows once again.

 What exactly is a Described Performance?

A described show is one where you, the visually impaired or blind audience member, are loaned a special headset through which you can hear a live commentary on the whole show, including describing the audience before the show begins. During the show, the describer tells you what is happening or about to happen on stage, and also describes the scenery. This commentary is inserted during pauses in the on-stage dialogue.


Before you go: tips for attending a Described Performance

Arrive early enough to pick up your headset from the booth or table in the lobby without any rush.

Make sure you get a headset for people with vision loss, not one for hearing loss.

Have the person on duty show you how the headset works – on/off and volume.

Turn the headset on before you leave the booth. You should be able to hear either the describer talking, or static.


Many theaters in the Boston area offer described performances, but it is not so in all other cities. (Perkins Library can send you an email listing of these performances for fall and winter. Phone 617 972 7240 or 800 852 3133.) When a theater does offer described performances, there will only be 1 or 2 per show, and not for all their shows.


Special seating for customers with vision loss are available at some theaters, but this is unrelated to whether any performance will be described. For instance the Boston Opera House is currently performing This is the Lion King. There is some seating for people with vision loss and also large print programs, but there is just one described performance, this Sunday September 28th at 1pm. There are just a few single seats left scattered through the theater. You have to buy your seat in the usual way.

Performances that your kids are in  

Perhaps the biggest loss of all, though, is not being able to pick out your own child or grandkid, not watching – not even knowing – when little Jessie gallops across the stage wearing her reindeer suit. It is made even more painful by everyone else’s delight. The best way to tackle this is in 3 steps:

Make sure you check out the reindeer costume,and also see or hear her part in the performance beforehand.

Ask to attend a dress rehearsal and sit as close as possible, even maybe on stage, or have an older kid tell you when Jessie comes on stage and what she is doing.

Now you can attend the performance like any other parent or grandparent if you want to.


This is the time of year to check out any described performances in your area. Because there are so few, it is wise to book early.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *