Girl Scout enhancing live theater enjoyment for hearing impaired people

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OLATHE, Kan. -- As they watch FOX 4 News, or most other TV shows for that matter, people who don't hear well can engage the closed captioning feature on their sets to get the most out of the broadcasts. The same isn't usually the case for hearing impaired people when it comes to live theater. This week's FOX 4 Young Achiever is changing that.

As cast and crew rehearsed for the Trilogy Cultural Arts Centre Christmas Spectacular last month, Catherine Pestinger was busy doing double duty. She ran through production numbers on stage as a performer, and hustled up to the control room to enter the script and song lyrics into a closed captioning system so all the lines would appear on giant video screens on the stage during the live show.

"This is Project: Don't Miss a Line," said Pestinger. "And really it incorporates helping the deaf and hearing impaired community, enhancing their live musical theater experience by having closed captioning during the live musical theater performances."

Project: Don't Miss a Line is Pestinger 's brainchild, inspired by hearing-impaired people in her life, including her grandfather and Trilogy's Makeup Master, Angela Adams, who advised Pestinger in her project. As one of Trilogy's very fine young student performers, musical theater is in Pestinger's blood and she wants it to be her future.

"And when I came up with the idea that deaf people don't have the same musical theater experiences as I do, it just fueled my inspirational fire and my driving passion so much more," she said.

Trilogy does its shows in the impressive auditorium of Indian Creek Community Church in Olathe, which has a closed captioning system for services. Pestinger convinced Trilogy and the church to let her use that system along with the Trilogy shows for her project.

"At Trilogy, we are known as the ‘Quadruple Threat’," said Trilogy Executive Artistic Director and founder Bridget Taylor. "They can sing, dance and act, as well as they are wonderful people with integrity and leaders. And we grow leaders here. And Cat is such a giving person, it was a very natural movement from her coming up with and thinking about those people that she cared for and how she could help with the closed captioning. Cat is a lover of people. And I think that if we can grow our leaders to love people first, then you are making decisions for the good of everyone. And I think that is what separates her."

The Christmas Spectacular became the second Trilogy production for Pestinger's closed captioning project. The first was in November for the musical Peter Pan in which Pestinger starred in the title role.

"It was just the best feeling in the world," said Pestinger about the experience of seeing her project come to life. "Just like getting up on stage and performing is an amazing feeling. It just felt like that, being able to help all those people. Being able to partner with the (Kansas) School for the Deaf and see students from there. Trilogy was so generous in donating some tickets so students could come and see the closed captioned performance. And just seeing the reactions from the surveys, getting all those comments in, everyone was so positive and encouraging. And that was the best feeling. Seeing the impact that my project already has had on people is just amazing."

Another big part of Pestinger's life is Girl Scouts. She's been in it for 12 years, and she is determined now to earn the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts. Project: Don't Miss a Line is her capstone project for the Gold Award.

"One thing that really inspired me was seeing my brother complete his Eagle Scout project," said Pestinger. "Just seeing how much that helped the community, and I knew that I could do something just as big or bigger to help the community, as well.”

“If I hadn't found a project that I loved so much, it probably wouldn't have turned out like this. But since I was able to incorporate my musical theater passion with the project, I think that's something that really helped me persevere," she added.

To bring the full thrill of the live stage to a much bigger audience

Pestinger is hoping to expand her project to other area theaters. Meantime, the next one at Trilogy will be a performance of the musical, The Little Mermaid, in April. Pestinger, a high school junior at Christ Prep Academy in Lenexa, KS, will be auditioning for a major role in that.

Pestinger has a Facebook page chronicling her project. CLICK HERE to visit her page.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

Phil Witt, FOX 4 News

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