Fremont High School in Plain City, Utah, has a robust performing arts department. Their 2022 production of Anastasia included 170 students in the cast, crew, and orchestra.
Fremont High School Senior Hayden Reeve liked performing in high school musical theater productions. Unfortunately, he had not had much opportunity to participate fully due to his hearing loss. Hayden has a cochlear implant and utilizes an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. But that wasn’t enough to help him keep track of lines, songs, and other stage cues. Hayden had resigned to just signing one musical piece in previous productions. He found it too difficult to keep up with everything happening on and off the stage when he couldn’t hear clearly.
Enter Paco Aguilar, a rep at Pro Tech Marketing and former Broadway sound engineer. Paco’s son attended Fremont High School. That’s where Ashley Patterson and Aubrey Obray, two of the high school’s performing arts department teachers, met Paco and recruited his services to help manage the sound for the show.
Paco recommended trying the Listen EVERYWHERE assistive listening system to assist Hayden. He set up a two-channel Listen EVERYWHERE server backstage and connected the mic source. Hayden downloaded the free Listen EVERYWHERE app to his smartphone to access the streamed audio.
In early rehearsals, the mic source was usually the director or whoever was leading the rehearsal. That generally worked for when he needed to hear whomever was giving students direction. As the show’s opening date approached, the mic source was switched to the main characters. Hayden could follow along and get his stage cues. It was trial and error to figure out what worked best. Talented costume designer, Margo Maw, came up with the idea to sew a pocket in the chest of a t-shirt. Hayden wore the t-shirt under his costumes. They used a mic belt to secure his phone in his t-shirt pocket. The neck loop plugged into Hayden’s phone and sat around his neck (under his costumes) to transmit the audio to his cochlear implant.
Hayden could hear well enough that he performed multiple parts (comrade, peasant, Russian person, reporter, and member of the Secret Royal Guard). Additionally, he also signed in ASL for the group songs. Thanks to the Listen EVERYWHERE assistive listening system, Hayden could hear what was happening throughout the musical. This allowed him to fully participate and add his talents to the technical production.
The school even hosted a “hard of hearing and deaf” performance with an ASL interpreter. Hayden invited his deaf community, family, and friends and had his own cheering section that night.
Mrs. Patterson and Mrs. Obray were delighted to include Hayden in the production. They especially loved how well Hayden communicated what he needed to be able to hear so he could contribute to the school’s performance of Anastasia.
Hayden commented, “Before I came to Fremont High School, I really couldn’t hear music that well. It wasn’t easy to provide ASL to the musical numbers at my other school because I couldn’t hear the words over the music. With Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. Obray, and Paco’s help, I’ve been so happy to be able to participate more and feel included in the production.”
Mrs. Obray commented, “Hayden was a great sport and willing to be the guinea pig as we worked through what worked best for him. He would take notes during rehearsals and send them to me so we could tweak what was working for him and figure out how to provide the best experience for him.”
Hayden sent a message to his teacher, which they read aloud to the cast and crew:
To my dearest, wonderful Anastasia musical cast,
Ever since I transferred to Fremont High School, I was nervous about how I would be able to interact and socialize with people. But as I continued with the musical, I felt like I belonged to Fremont High as you guys welcomed me, and I’m very grateful for this amazing opportunity and cast. Other musicals were hard for me. Here you made it easy and fun for me. I felt more joy and love here. This is my senior year, and you guys made it special. I love interacting with you guys and learning new things. It made me feel included because I could get help with communication and dealing with issues like feeling like I didn’t belong.