Devon Healey is the Blindness and Performance Consultant on “A Grown-Up’s Guide to Flying,” one of The Tape Escape‘s three in-store rentals. 

When you were growing up, what did video stores represent to you? 
When I was younger video stores signified staying up late, eating popcorn and late fees! I remember going to the video store with my sister and Dad to rent a movie only to discover that we had forgotten to take back some rental from a sleepover with friends. I think my parents helped keep Blockbuster alive as long as it did because of all our late fees! I still have a copy of The Pagemaster in the blockbuster case, that’s right, The Pagemaster! Late fees aside, there was something magical about going to the video store. Movies signified an event. Effort was made to be together, to go to the store, to find a movie that everyone could agree on and then of course, to bring it back… hopefully on time! You knew everyone in that store was involved in the same process, that their night was going to be a movie night and that you too were sharing in that. Holding that old overdue blockbuster case reminds me of that magic—I think it’s a bit of magic we are missing these days. The Tape Escape is bringing back the feel of the shared magic of Movie Night.

Can you describe how your relationship with movies has changed now that you are blind?
My relationship with movies has not changed but my appreciation for all the little things that go into creating the world of a movie has intensified. The intended focal point of a scene, where the director wants you to focus your attention, is no longer something I get caught up in. The beauty of the background, what is happening just off to the side of the main action, the environmental noises, the score, the details of the script have captured my attention. There are mini movies happening within the larger narrative that I never noticed before and my blindness has revealed them to me. It is as if there are hidden stories and secret details within every film that only a specific few are invited into. Blindness has unlocked the secret treasures of film that sighted eyes cannot see.

Why were you excited to come on board and work as a consultant on The Tape Escape? 
The creative team working on The Tape Escape has a genuine desire to engage with all the little things of a film and of a performance that only blindness can see. I was thrilled to work alongside them and discover how to express this perception, what blindness perceives, in non- visual ways in relation to film. In contrast to the understanding of blindness as a flawed or damaged sensorium, our collaboration begins to unveil how the life of blindness generates a necessary creativity that the sighted world could learn from; blindness is a necessary and creative feature of the sensorium.

What was your perception of Escape Rooms prior to working on this show? How about
If I am honest, escape rooms never appealed to me. I thought of them as a space where sighted people play sighted games—how boring! Outside The March has completely changed my opinion! A Grown Up’s Guide to Flying is a full sensory experience replete with all the escape room games and then some! This rental immerses people within a story elevating the experience from merely a game to an event; the magic of movie night has returned and blindness is your guide!

What’s next for you in the world of theatre and blindness?
I hold a two year SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship with York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design as well the Sensorium Lab where I plan to turn my dissertation titled, Blindness in V Acts: Disability Studies as Critical Creative Inquiry into a play. I also work with theatres in Toronto in relation to blindness, disability, accessibility and the arts. Alongside that, I will likely be spending many hours watching movies and eating popcorn without late fees hanging over my head!

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