While visiting New York City in 2018 to do research on audio description in Broadway theater, I partnered with GalaPro to learn more about their automatic audio description services and how they are used at several different plays, including Chicago. I received two free tickets to Chicago to test out the GalaPro service for the play, and it was my favorite out of the four audio description systems that I tested at various plays. Here is how I use the GalaPro audio description app on my mobile device to watch Chicago on Broadway.
GalaPro is a free app that allows users to watch live performances with audio description or captioning in their language using their own personal device and headphones. Descriptions and captions are pre-recorded and synchronized to the venue, so users can easily follow along with the play. For Broadway plays, all plays that are owned by the Shubert Organization are available with GalaPro.
GalaPro is free to use and does not require any additional purchases or specific seating for access. However, users will need to purchase a ticket to the play separately.
How to enable GalaPro at participating theaters
Before arriving at the theater, I strongly recommend making a free GalaPro account on the mobile device that will be used during the show for easier access. Once the user arrives at the theater and finds their seat, GalaPro can be enabled by doing the following:
- Turn on “Airplane Mode” for the mobile device to avoid additional interfering signals
- Connect to the GalaPro wifi hotspot and type in the password- the password is provided at the accessibility window for the theater
- In the GalaPro application, select the name of the play and follow additional onscreen directions
The GalaPro app requires the user to have their device open for the entirety of the performance (i.e not locked), but the light on the app is very dim so it will not bother other attendees.
- Blindness Canes and Performing Arts Centers: Navigating College Campuses
- Using Audio Description at Dear Evan Hansen
- Watching Twelfth Night With Audio Description From The National Theatre
The pre-performance description lasts about 10 minutes. It begins when the app opens for the show, cutting off right as it begins. The description talks about the different characters and their physical descriptions, such as their hair color, build, makeup, and costume details. There is also a description of the set and common props.
- Promoting Cast Involvement In Audio Description
- Watching Mischief Movie Night In With Audio Description
- Watching One World: Together At Home With Audio Description and Be My Eyes
What to expect from audio descriptions
Audio descriptions are provided whenever there is a pause in dialogue or during music as movement changes. As the show goes on, listeners can learn how the characters move across the stage, their facial expressions, visual jokes, and choreography during dance numbers. For example, during the dance number for “Cell Block Tango”, I got to hear how the dancers move around in their chairs and their facial expressions as they sang. In another scene when one of the main characters, Roxie Hart, enters the stage, I was able to figure out where she entered from and where she had gone on the stage.
Even though Chicago is a play that focuses a lot on dancing, listeners do not need to have a knowledge of dance terminology in order to follow along with descriptions. Some examples of movements described include kicks, spins, gestures with arms, and moving from side to side.
How I use GalaPro with low vision
Even though GalaPro doesn’t drain my phone battery, I found it easier to bring an iPod Touch to the theater because I wanted to make sure my phone wouldn’t die while I was in the middle of New York City. Since I had downloaded the GalaPro app before leaving from the hotel, it only took a minute or two to set up everything for the show. I experimented with the volume controls during the pre-show and placed the device in a jacket pocket during the show.
I find audio description incredibly helpful when watching plays of any kind, and for Chicago I found it especially helpful to hear character descriptions and figure out who was talking to who in different scenes, as well as during scenes without any dialogue. Even though the descriptions are pre-recorded, they still sound very natural, so it’s not like I’m listening to a screen reader for the entirety of a performance.
More tips for using GalaPro with low vision
- In addition to audio description, GalaPro also offers subtitles, closed captions, dubbing, and amplification
- GalaPro is also available at other theater venues outside of Broadway and is accessed in the same way
- Audio description and captioning cannot be used simultaneously