Overland Park teenager lends an ear to hearing-impaired locals

January 29, 2014 by  

Thanks to the dedication of Catherine Pestinger, a teenager from Overland Park, Olathe audience members who have difficulty hearing can still enjoy performances thanks to a new offering at Trilogy Cultural Arts Center.

The Olathe News recently revealed that Pestinger was working on a project to achieve her Girl Scout Gold Award, but did not quite know how to incorporate her love of musicals into her work. Then she thought about her grandfather, who attends her shows but cannot fully enjoy them because he is losing his hearing. She wanted to help him, and others who have auditory handicaps. She did so by devising a sort of ‘closed captioning’ system for live theater.

At a recent performance of ‘Peter Pan’, in which Pestinger starred, lyrics of the songs, as well as the dialogue, were shown on screens adjoining the stage, while a live feed of the action was displayed above so readers did not have to look from stage to screen to see what was happening. The arrangement meant they did not miss a thing.

The audience reaction was overwhelmingly positive, since Olathe has a sizable segment of its population that is aging or hard of hearing. Bridget Taylor, who is executive director of Trilogy Cultural Arts Center where the performance took place, said all matinees there will now be closed captioned.

The arts center could work with brochure printers to create a mailer for Olathe residents letting them know about the new system.