Since a very young age, Nicole Trudeau has lived with a visual impairment. Suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, a congenital degenerative disease, she gradually lost her sight until the silhouettes and colors that she vaguely distinguished disappeared completely.
What has never disappeared, however, is the insatiable curiosity of this octogenarian, an avid reader passionate about concerts and theatre. It is therefore with unfeigned joy that she welcomed the new initiatives of the Théâtre du Rideau Vert, in particular the tactile visits and theatrical description intended for the blind.
At the end of March, more than three hours before the start of the performance of Pif-Luisant, a dozen people with visual limitations gathered in the theater hall on rue Saint-Denis. This is the third time that Nicole Trudeau has taken part in the activity, and she is relishing every moment.
When employees of the Rideau Vert show her the costumes of the different characters in the play set in the 19th century, she explores every fiber with her fingertips. She thus discovers the satin stripes that adorn a coat, marvels at the textured buttons of a brocade waistcoat, weighs with perplexity the heaviness of the steward’s costume… “It must not have been very practical to do the food ! »
The color of the fabrics intrigues him every time. She knew yellow, green, blue in her childhood and wants to keep their memories alive in her memory.
“There are people who think you can’t make a mental picture because you can’t see! But I am inhabited by a visual universe of my own. »
To recreate the decor of Pif-Luisant in her head, she walked up and down the stage, touched the heavy curtains, felt the electric wires running on the wall and weighed the fake polystyrene cheeses. She asked several questions about the color of the carpets and walls as well as the precise angle of the staircase that occupies the corner of the stage. But Nicole Trudeau was not entirely satisfied.
“I need to settle in the center of the decor, with my back to the room, to better lateralize myself. I want to know exactly where each piece of furniture is, what is on the courtyard side and on the garden side. The head machinist, Michel Eudore Desrosiers, therefore served as his eyes for a moment, carefully explaining where each element was located.
So when it came time for the performance, Nicole Trudeau could situate each actor on the stage she had created in her head. The source of the voice projection of the performers did the rest.
She was also able to tune into the theatrical description directly from her smart phone. Throughout the play, a live voice thus put into words what blind spectators could not see. A head lowered in spite, a hand on a shoulder as a sign of comfort, the entrances and exits of the various characters…
“It’s happiness,” says Nicole Trudeau after the play. I have frequented the theater since my childhood, but certain details have always escaped me. This is even more true recently, with stagings that make a lot of room for new technologies, such as video projections. »
For this woman of action, who worked for a long time as a music teacher in addition to participating in various research on the standardization of braille in publishing, the opening of theaters to blind customers is a step that had to be taken.
“I have the right to have services that make certain things accessible. I have already spoken to theater directors about it. I even wrote to Robert Lepage to raise awareness. My letter went unanswered… Now I hope it will continue and the Green Curtain initiatives will spread to other theaters. »
Why has it taken so long for theaters to address the issue of accessibility for blind people? “That’s a big question. In society, visual impairment is perceived very negatively. Some people think that without sight, nothing can be done. And definitely not going to the theater! »
“It’s hard to live with, but it makes me more combative!” “says the one who attends more than twenty concerts and plays each year.
Thanks to the program offered since September by the Rideau Vert, she has the impression that a door is opening. Nicole Trudeau is aware, however, that for these services to take hold for good, people with visual (or hearing) limitations must “make the effort to travel to frequent beautiful texts and culture as much as possible”. “Because it feeds life,” she said.
“It’s also about theaters strategizing with us and not deciding for us what might or might not be of interest to us. There has to be a sharing. I want us to be understood and not to be seen as people who should be excluded from certain universes. »
She adds, “I find it very hard to say that something is not for me! »