The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 3, 2014

'Voice' of access: Bethany theater production first in city to offer audio descriptions

Bethany theater production first in city to offer audio descriptions

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"Her enthusiasm mixed with our production and just reminded us all why we're here in the first place," Gratz said. "If we can tell a great story, but also touch and affect people, then we're doing our jobs right."

Inniger and Tietz continued talking, however, and soon arrived at the notion of offering the city's first audio-described play.

To augment the descriptions, Tietz is planning on taking students on a sensory tour of the stage and the play's accompanying set pieces before the curtain opens. The intent, she said, is to give students an even more concrete image of the 17-foot revolve and train trestle that dominate the space.

Inniger said the project has "invigorated" himself and the cast.

"Anytime you can reach a new community," he said, "it's really thrilling."

As for the play itself, "Voice of the Prairie" concerns an old hobo named Poppy and Davey Quinn, his younger traveling companion who has rescued Frankie from a cruel home life. Many years later, after he has lost touch with Poppy and Frankie, Davey is discovered by a radio executive while telling stories about the pair. As Davey becomes a celebrity on the contraption that is sweeping the country in the 1920s, Frankie re-enters his life.

In a 1988 review of the John Olive play, a Los Angeles Times reviewer commented on the play's intertwining of storytelling and historical power: "In the mythological sense, this unsentimental but touching story of lives that collide more than they coalesce places the mystery and power of the spoken word in historical perspective. And at the same time that it extols the miracle of collective communication, it crucially juxtaposes the difficulty of the interpersonal one."

Inniger directed the play when he was still a Bethany student nearly a decade ago. Ever since, he said he's meant to return to the work.

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