Susan Williams, 27, is functionally blind and co-director of the accessible show ‘Stories of the Darkest Night’ at the NZ Improv Festival in Wellington. The show is created using audio techniques, and sighted audience members will be asked to close their eyes. We talk to Susan about her involvement and motivations behind creating a show which focuses entirely on sound, not sight.
Tell us about your involvement in the show?
Fellow member of Wellington Improv Troup, Ali Little, and I are co-teaching and co-directing this show, which will be made up on the spot. We will host a workshop teaching improv techniques that will form the basis of the show. It will be told from multiple perspectives, inside a world made of sound to bring a unique experience to our audience.
Could you tell us a bit about your background in the arts and theatre?
I have been involved in theatre and performance since I was nine. When I started to lose the ability to use my vision, just over two years ago, I thought I wouldn’t be able to continue doing theatre again, especially improvisation.
I didn’t know who would cast a functionally blind person in their show, particularly when the audience would never be able to see my eyes, and the expressions in them. As for improvisation I thought it was hopeless. How could I possibly be part of spontaneous theatre? How could I move around and react to fellow actors I couldn’t even see?
But somehow, I just couldn’t stay away and it has been wonderful. I have acted in two amazing theatre productions, and I am rehearsing for a third. I have also been going along to improve practice, and even started branching out into teaching and directing. This will be the first time I have been part of directing a show, and I am seriously enjoying it and this style makes it fully accessible to me as a functionally blind director.
Why did you want to make it an accessible production?
I wanted to make the show fully accessible to people who are blind and low vision, because accessibility is so important. It is also a wonderful side effect of creating something fully accessible to me as a director.
Usually, even if accessibility exists, it is added to something inherently inaccessible. I thought about how much I would enjoy a show that wasn’t adapted for me, but was made to put me on an equal footing with the rest of the audience.
Was it difficult to design an audio only show?
For me creating a world out of sound is perfectly natural, after all it’s how I experience a lot of the world, however most totally sighted people are not used to seeing in this way. It can be a challenge to make improvisers comfortable and confident performing in this unusual way, but when they are they seem to have a lot of fun and create some awesome work.
We love the sound of the show! How do we head along?
The show is on October 25, 9.30pm at the Bats Theatre. Buy your tickets here.