The Blind Café creator and producer Rosh -- just Rosh -- has learned a few tricks since bringing his unique community event to Boulder last November.
After what he says was an ultimately successful but disappointing experience, Rosh took the Blind Café to Portland, Ore., where he says he put on one of the best events in the history of his organization.
A "blind café" is composed of a completely darkened space in which patrons are given the opportunity to experience what it's like to be blind.
Patrons are escorted into the dark space -- so dark that you cannot see your hand in front of your face -- by legally blind servers who help customers to their table. Food is given to patrons who don't necessarily know what they're consuming. The idea is that with eyesight gone, other senses -- smell and taste -- become more acute, making the food taste better.
What Rosh says makes his event special is that he brings in blind performers and speakers from the community. These performers might read stories or poems they've written, and some also engage in an open forum with patrons -- still in pitch-blackness -- about being blind.
In addition, live music -- performed by Rosh's band, One Eye Glass Broken -- brings something extra to the evening: a communal concert experience in the dark.
"The biggest lesson I've learned," Rosh said, "is that I'm not an event coordinator." By hiring someone to work on the operations management of his event in Portland, Rosh says he was able to concentrate more on the event itself, on the creative aspects, on coaching blind servers and performers, on the music and food.
Rosh has listened to various patrons from the last Boulder Blind Café (the third such event) and has taken notes on those who had ideas for improvements, including such small alterations as making his band's set list "more warming and a little less intense." This time he plans on having a sing-along, which was successful in Portland.
Phil Norman, cellist in Rosh's band and co-producer of the event, is excited about the Boulder Blind Café 4 being "more upscale." This round, the café will be enjoying the amenities of the Hotel Boulderado, including the hotel's chef and cooking staff.
Norman, also the "Master of Darkness," is particularly enthused about the Boulderado, since he's in charge of making sure the spot they choose for the event is as dark as it should be. "In Portland, we found our ideal space. It took only six hours instead of 18 to 20. We can make any place dark, but it helps to have an ideal space."
"This is going to sound romantic and idealized," Norman said, "but I've always liked the idea of changing the world through music. And that's a lot of the reason I work with Rosh and the Blind Café. It's empowering people."
Blind since birth and the proprietor of Boulder's Unseen Bean, Gerry Leary has been a big supporter of the Blind Café since its inception. Leary attends the events, including the one held in Portland, and helps out however he can, also taking part in the Q&A sessions. "I really enjoy [the Blind Café] a lot," he said. "It gives people who don't know each other a chance to meet each other in a very different situation."
Another supporter is Daniel Cubas, who wrote an article on Blind Café's Web site enitled "How To Treat A Blind Person." Cubas, a member of the Kids of Widney High -- a famed rock group comprised of young adults with developmental disabilities -- is both blind and lives with cerebral palsy. When Rosh heard of Cubas' rules, which contain such notions as: "If you want to be more than friends with them, tell him or her your feelings, and that you want to be more than a friend. Remember a blind person cannot see the way you are looking at them," he knew Cubas was someone he wanted to connect with.
Though Cubas currently lives in Arizona, he plans on working with Rosh on future Blind Café events, as Rosh intends to next bring his café to such places as Austin, Cincinnati, and eventually Japan.
"The more this goes around the country and the world, the more it'll open up the world's eyes to see people with disabilities in a new light," Cubas said. The media still portrays people with disabilities incorrectly, and this kind of thing helps change the world's attitude. Hopefully, people will react differently when they come in contact with a blind person."
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
From The Camera:
Posted by BA Haller at 4:40 PM