Update, 2:05 PM: The production has confirmed they have reached out to Coleman directly to apologize and thank her for bringing the incident to their attention.
Playbill has obtained a joint statement from the producers of Broadway's Hadestown and Jujamcyn, which owns and operates the Walter Kerr Theatre where the production is housed, apologizing in response to social media reports of an October 12 incident at the evening performance of the Tony-winning musical. According to audience member Samantha Coleman, she was called out by company member Lillias White multiple times from the stage for filming the performance when she was actually using a captioning device due to hearing loss.
"I was sitting in the front row of Hadestown tonight and Lillias White not once but twice at least reprimanded me from the stage because she thought my captioning device was a recording device," Coleman shares in a video posted to Instagram. "For Lillias, because I don't think this is inherently her malice, I think it's a misunderstanding, but we still need to talk about it. There is a systemic issue in the theatre community and the theatre industry specifically with Broadway about accessibility and inclusion, and some of that has been changed by the creation of technology like captioning devices so that people can be able to experience a show that may not have been able to before. My hearing is such that I need captioning devices for when I see a show, and to kind of be ostracized and publicly ridiculed really hurts. It was super embarrassing. The people who need to use these devices should feel comfortable and confident in seeing a Broadway show and not be met with shame and embarrassment and anxiety..."
Along with offering their "deepest apologies," the production and Jujamcyn both affirm their commitment to accessibility in their response to the incident, calling it "a reminder that this is an ongoing process needing constant revisiting and renewal." The joint statement goes on to pledge a review of policies and protocols "to ensure this doesn't happen again." The statement is printed in full below.
Though it is unclear which specific captioning device Coleman was using, it is likely that it was visually similar to a smartphone or an actual smartphone. A system launched by GalaPro in 2018 that has since been adopted across Broadway and at major touring and regional houses across the country brings accessibility technology—including captions and audio descriptions—to audience members' own devices, with mandatory settings in place that minimize screen light that could be distracting to fellow audience members. It is likely that White incorrectly thought Coleman was illegally filming the performance using her smartphone.
Read the full statement from Hadestown and Jujamcyn below:
"Hadestown and Jujamcyn have a commitment to accessibility in all forms.
"The incident yesterday is a reminder that this is an ongoing process needing constant revisiting and renewal.
"Providing access is also about educating everyone in the theater about how we can be more supportive.
"We are reviewing our policies and internal protocols to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
"We extend our deepest apologies to Samantha and extend our gratitude to her for sharing her experience so that it can be addressed."