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South Pacific

Utah-CAN worked hard to get a play captioned for us and I wanted to support their efforts. I dreaded using the phone to buy tickets so I drove downtown to buy them from the theater. The play was South Pacific, nothing for me to get excited about but I wanted to support my community efforts. When the lady handed me the tickets for the matinée presentation, I finally got excited. Wow! I’m going to see a captioned play! It’s totally different type of entertainment for me. I hope for more captions in the future.

The SayWhatClub convention is going to be held here in Salt Lake, August 15 – 18. Utah-CAN asked to make sure the box office knew we would be interested in more captioned performances. Hmmm.

“I have a group of hard of hearing people coming to town for a convention this summer. What are the chances of getting Wicked captioned at that time?”

She excused herself to ask her manager and came back to me with ASL interpreted dates. She/they really thought this would work for us. Disappointment settled in. They don’t get it yet.

“That won’t work for us,” I told her. “We grew up hearing and speaking with many of us losing our hearing later in life. Most of us don’t know sign language and never will. We need captions because we still sort of belong to the hearing world.”

She excused herself again and came back more apologetic this time. She handed me a card for Broadway Across America and told me to get in touch with them.

I walked away thinking I would contact the company. I also know Utah-CAN will probably be working for more captioned plays too. What really bugged me was how we are lumped into the Deaf, not that I have a problem with the Deaf, but our communication needs are so different. We hear of Deaf Culture… maybe it was time to come out, OUT LOUD, with hard of hearing culture. I’m not sure how to go about doing that but I will be thinking on it.

So I go to the play knowing nothing about South Pacific. As we wait for the doors to open, I walk by the souvenir booth and I see a shirt that says, “I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair” and I start laughing. I know that part of the play! There’s this other goofy favorite movie of mine called Welcome to Woop Woop and they spoof that scene so I do know something of South Pacific.

The doors open and we take our seats. I spot the captioning to the left of the stage in red lettering. Relief fills me and more excitement bubbles up. I see a number of people from our hard of hearing community and I’m giddy. Then the seats start filling in and I realize the captions aren’t high enough. Two young girls with big hair are sitting in front of us, tall girls. I look over to the side and watch as a lady from the Sanderson Center advocated with the theater staff for two little ladies who couldn’t see the captions through all the heads. They brought the women seat cushions to boost them up and they settled in. Maybe I could have used one too.

I look at the girl in front of me and think, if she stays scrunched down in her seat, I’m ok. She doesn’t. I ask my boyfriend to change seats with me but I still don’t have a clear view of the captions. Optimistically, I sit up straight and the girl in front of me sits up straight. Then, I lean to the side, and it’s not long until she leans to the side. Finally I lean over my knees and rest my head on my arm to watch the captions and play. Would you believe the girl in front of me did the same thing? It was crazy enough I had to laugh a little. I leaned back when she leaned forward and still watched the play and captions. Back and forth we went for almost 3 hours.

In spite of that frustration, I enjoyed the play.  I have now seen South Pacific. The captions were right on and my delay in laughing was just a second or so behind everyone else. Even with the difficulties in seeing the captions, I enjoyed the play and I’m glad I went. I would go again but I would make the suggestion that the captions be higher up in the air. Or maybe I should insist on sitting closer. The play was totally different entertainment for me and hopefully the visible captions spread a little hearing loss awareness.

One the way out, I saw our CART person (not working that day) and she asked me how it went. I told her it was great except they weren’t high enough. She nodded. I bet it’s better next time because I wasn’t the only one wishing I was taller.

6 thoughts on “South Pacific”

  1. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the play! I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to a play and have missed out… my son majored in theater and I would have loved to be a full participant in each of his performances. I would love to know if there are to be any other captioned plays in SLC the future.

  2. My kids were in drama all through high school, all 3 of them. I sat through many a play without knowing what it was about. One time they gave me the script in the theater and I tried reading along and that was better than nothing. Another time a kid brought the script home for me to read before I went which worked better. Other than that, I was the dutiful mom sitting in the audience, not understanding much but enjoying watch her kids having fun.
    You can keep up to date with captioned entertainment in Salt Lake on the Utah-Can blog,

  3. Oh I would have loved to see that play. I love South Pacific and I have the original records from it.
    It is one play where i would know some of the words to the songs.

    I hope that they can have a play while the SayWhatClub Convention is in Salt Lake City. I don’t care if it is Wicked or not but something for a general audience that is hard of hearing.

    Maybe you could ask to go check out the location of the captioning screen before the show to give them some feedback.

    In Philadelphia when we go to a captioned show they give us specific seats so that we can see the words and watch the play at the same time. I will be going to a play at the Society Hill Playhouse next month. I will try to take a photo of the location of the script board.


  4. They had a section set aside for us and they placed me in the middle. I think it would have been better to be as near the front as possible. The slope to the theater just wasn’t steep enough… or the captions high enough.
    I’ll see if I can help work it for the convention.

  5. I like sign language but I’m stuck being the only one who knows it. I took classes in the mid 90’s and had no one to practice with except my kids with simple signs. I started taking sign language classes about 3 years ago again through our deaf/hoh center and again… no one to practice with. My boyfriend is resentful of learning a new language this late in life and the kids who live near me are too busy. My youngest son who lives about 9 hours away started an ASL classes this semester so he’s interested but doesn’t live close enough. I sign as I talk, when I remember, to my one year old grandson. I need to remember every time I talk to him and then maybe I’ll have someone.

  6. I am choosing to learn American Sign Language. I’ve been HOH since 18 months of age and I’ve been struggling for 60 years since then. I’m deaf on one side and gradually drifting towards total deafness on the other. At this point I’m “hard of hearing.” One of the reasons I’m doing this is that it makes the point that I can’t hear. I’m a hearing culture person, but… you can’t believe how freeing it is to have a conversation in which you can be a 100% participant. I choose to learn ASL because (1) learning a language is great for the brain, (2) I meet lots of HOH in classes, (3) I meet HOH and deaf as well as hearing people at meet-ups where we sign – and I can understand what is said, and (4) I can participate with CART or ASL. It also makes a statement. I can’t hear you! Look at me when you speak to me. Speak distinctly. Screaming does not help. Of course, in my case, if you want my help (I’m in a helping profession) then the person seeing me really needs to get a clue. My son-in-law signs, my daughter could, but is resistant, I feel as if by making an issue of my hearing (learning ASL, being overt about expecting accommodations) I both raise awareness and increase my chances of coping

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