“The purpose of theatre is to put the audience in a better position to understand the world around them.”
Live theatre is one of the most open, human art forms that exists today. The connection between the actors and the audience is a cathartic experience that I believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience and enjoy.
In October of 2017, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy (JME). This diagnosis led to so many lifestyle changes, but one of the things that hit home the most was the precautionary motion of avoiding strobe lights. At first I didn’t give it much thought. “How hard could it possibly be?” It turns out, very hard, especially when you are aspiring to become an actor in live theatre. After having multiple tests done, it was decided that, for whatever reason, I was spared from the burden of strobe sensitivities.
But that time where I had to so cautiously make sure that I didn’t come in contact with strobe lights left me thinking, “How many other people are living with strobe sensitivities and are unable to enjoy something as simple as a children’s movie or local theatre production simply because there are strobe lights used?”
I thought about the times I saw the strobe warnings at the movie theatre when I was trying to watch a movie with my friends and the people at the desk couldn’t tell me when I should exit the theatre to avoid seeing the lights. I reflected on my recent trip to New York City where I asked some ushers for information about when I should be prepared to avoid the strobe lights and was met with responses such as “What is a strobe light?”, “Are you sure those are used in this show?”, “There is a notice for those outside the theatre.”, and sometimes the contradicting responses between guest concierge and the house manager or other ushers.
So that’s when I came up with the idea for Violet Curtains, a place where I could write down any notes that I had on the use of strobe lights in a theatre production or movie for other Epileptics to use as a cautionary guide so that they will be able to have warning for the simple lighting cue that could turn dangerous for them.
I will do my best to update this blog as soon as I see any movies or shows with the strobe warnings, both local productions and any that I see professionally in New York or around the country! I hope that this will spread awareness of the disconnect between the theatre industry and the epileptic community. Even if this allows one family to enjoy going to the theatre with more ease than before, I will have succeeded in my goal!