Loeb Playhouse is utilizing its summer renovations

Upgrades to Loeb Playhouse over the summer will improve customer experiences from top to bottom.

The second-largest theater on campus had many of its more than 1,000 seats refurbished and a new system for the hearing impaired installed this summer.

“We don’t want to have any barriers to experiences or access, and we want everyone to be comfortable,” says Todd Wetzel, director of Purdue Convocations.

An induction loop system installed in the theater will allow patrons with a hearing aid or cochlear implant equipped with a T-coil to tap directly into the audio of any performance on the Loeb stage.

Audio from the stage’s microphones is sent directly to the loop, a magnetic cable that encircles the theater. Properly equipped devices pick up the magnetic signal, funneling the performance directly into the user’s ears.

“Whether it’s spoken word, music or a lecture, intelligibility and clarity are key,” Wetzel says. “People can be fully engaged in the performance. They’re not struggling to hear the details.”

Besides the inconvenience of having to check out hearing-assistance devices from the box office, the new induction loop system allows patrons with hearing disabilities to be discreet about their needs. It also increases reliability over the theater’s battery-powered devices.

“It’s really an upgrade for people who have that T-coil in their hearing aids,” says Stephen Hall, director of Purdue’s Hall of Music Productions. “The former system made it obvious that a patron had a hearing disability, which isn’t the most sensitive thing to do.”

Patrons with devices not equipped for the loop induction system can check out devices that employ Bluetooth technology to send performance audio into their hearing aids or implants.

Hall says Loeb is the first theater on campus to get an induction loop system, though many classrooms and other meeting spaces have the technology.

Seats inside of Loeb Playhouse

Many of the theater’s seats were refurbished this summer as well. Hall says the last time the seats had been spruced up was about 15 to 20 years ago, and it was showing through worn fabric and creaky springs.

“One of the things that really shows age in a theater quickly is seats,” Hall says. “It’s one of the very visible things.”

The seats have a layer of foam over springs, providing cushion. When foam and springs wear out, seats can become uncomfortable or creaky.

Hall says as seats were reupholstered, their cushions and springs were evaluated. If springs were broken, they were removed and replaced with multiple layers of foam found in more modern theater seats. Many seats kept working springs but were given new foam before being re-covered.

Wetzel says the seats are more than a cosmetic change. Comfortable patrons are less distracted and can direct their energy to the stage.

“People in the audience can focus on the moment, and a performer can feed off of that enthusiasm,” Wetzel says.

Hall says Fowler Hall is also getting an induction loop system, which should be installed within a month. And Hall of Music Productions would like to install a system – as well as refurbish seats – in Elliott Hall of Music if funding becomes available.