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Live Theater Captioning

Live Theater Captioning

We’re getting pretty used to seeing television programming captioned, and most of us have attended a captioned movie. CapTel users have become accustomed to having their telephone conversations captioned! And now we’re starting to see captioning for live theater!


C2N2t Lists Live Theater Performances with Captioning – I was actually surprised to learn how many captioned live theater performances there are. It seems like there are a LOT more than there were even a couple of years ago. You can view the list athttp://www.c2net.org/theatre.htm


February 2002 – Captioning in the theater? That’s right. Personal Captioning Systems has a great method of delivering captioning in the theater.

September 2005 – Still haven’t seen captioned theater? But you see interpreted theater all the time. Here’s Carol Granaldi plea to theater organizations to open their performances to people with hearing loss.

September 2005 – Ford’s Theater to Provide I-Caption Handheld Captioning System.

April 2007 – Deaf audiences can ‘see’ dialogue

September 2007 – The Guthrie Offers Open Caption Performances

February 2008 – c2net Provides Captioned Theater throughout US

November 2008 – Public Venue Access Coming to Washington State

December 2008 – Live play captioning is a first for Rochester

April 2009 – Seattle theaters becoming more accessible

September 2009 – Captioned Live Theater Performances

December 2009 – Seattle Live Theaters Provide Captioning for Holiday Shows

January 2010 – Nanci Linke-Ellis on Captioning

February 2010 – Walk4Hearing Proceeds Fund Live Theatre Accessibility

February 2010 – Broadway Show With Captions on National Tour!

March 2010 – Theater Development Fund Makes Live Theater Accessible

March 2010 – Reader Response to Using HLAA Walk4Hearing Money for Captioned Theater

March 2010 – Oregon Shakespeare Festival captions 11 plays this year

October 2010 – Captioning Solutions for Handheld Media and Mobile Devices


Personal Captioning Systems And Live Theater

February 2002

Editor: Many of us are now familiar with captioned movies and the two competing standards – open captioned and closed captioned. But how many of us have attended a captioned performance of live theater? Folks in San Jose recently had the opportunity to do so, thanks to a pager-sized device from Personal Captioning Systems. This cool gizmo not only provides captions to those who want them, but does so in the most unobtrusive manner I’ve seen. I think it answers many of the objections people have to current implementations of both types of captioning systems. Here’s the press release.


The January 25th weekend performances of EVITA at the American Musical Theater of San Jose provided the latest demonstration site for the captioning technology developed by Personal Captioning Systems. Patrons who were deaf and hard of hearing read the captions of the show from wireless TV like displays. The 4 inch battery powered units provided crisp white letter captions on a black background.

Prior to the performances the script was converted from a standard live theater/musical theater script to standard captioning format using PCS Live Theater Captioning software. During the performance an individual in the theater kept the captions synchronized with the action on stage with the simple click of a button.

PCS Live Theater Captioning Systems, Inc. would like to provide this most valuable accommodation to any seat in every “house” at every performance.

For additional information please visit the Personal Captioning System listing in our Resources Directory.


Please Caption that Theater Performance

by Carol Granaldi

Editor: We’re all used to seeing interpreters make stage plays accessible to signers with hearing loss. It’s much less common to see captioning make stage plays accessible to non-signers with hearing loss. But that’s starting to change, thanks largely to advocates’ efforts to educate the people who can make those things happen. One such person is Carol Granaldi of Ocean County, NJ, the co-founder and former president of SHHH-NJ. Carol took the time to write a letter in response to a local newspaper article about interpreters making theater accessible to those “who may have difficulty hearing”. Here’s what she had to say.


A July 31 article about the use of sign language interpreters at the Toms RiverFest states: “Sign language interpreters have been positioned beside the stages at every performance at the festival, to assist those who may have difficulty hearing.”

It is a great misconception that sign language interpreters assist many of those with “difficulty” hearing. As one who is among the vast majority of those who hear poorly and unable to utilize sign language, I ask the newspaper to be cognizant of terminology relating to deaf or hard-of-hearing people.

Overwhelmingly, those of us with difficulty hearing who attend such a festival would benefit greatly from “captioning” technology. I’ve attended group gatherings where text is imposed onto a large screen to enable people with hearing loss to see the speakers’ faces and read the text. A form of crawl captioning called “Silent Radio” that is used in theaters could also allow us to follow the words of the performers.

Sign language interpreters are useful to a minuscule group of deaf people fluent in sign language who are positioned close enough to be able to watch interpreters’ hand movements. Others needing the captioning would also need to be close to the screen or the Silent Radio crawl to read the text. One in 10 people has some form of hearing loss, and this larger group would appreciate communication enablement, not through sign language interpreters, but through captions in English.

It is admirable that the Toms RiverFest provided sign language interpreters. However, we do ask that in future RiverFests this captioning service be provided to non-signers.


Ford’s Theater to Provide I-Caption Handheld Captioning System

September 2005

Washington, DC–Ford’s Theatre today announced that it will provide I-Caption devices during the run of Ken Ludwig’s Leading Ladies (Sept. 23 – Oct. 23) that will enable Deaf and hard of hearing patrons to follow the onstage dialogue. Ford’s first utilized I-Caption technology during last season’s successful run of Big River: The Adventures of Big River, which included Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing cast members.

“The Washington area is the home of the nation’s largest Deaf and hard of hearing community,” said Ford’s Producing Director Paul R. Tetreault. “I-Caption technology will allow us to better serve this enthusiastic group of theatre goers who usually are able to enjoy only a few signed or audio-described performances of each production. During the run of Big River, we noticed a marked increase in the number of Deaf and hard of hearing patrons and volunteers who attended performances at Ford’s. We want to continue to make theatre more accessible to this vibrant population,” said Tetreault.

Ford’s Theatre will lease the I-Caption devices during the four-week run of Leading Ladies. The theatre is seeking funding to continue to provide the service throughout the season. I-Caption technology is the latest innovation in assistive technology from soundassociates.com.

The I-Caption system features a proprietary handheld unit that displays the text of the entire show verbatim, in real time from any seat in the house. The text is automated and synchronized with sound and lighting cues to accommodate pacing variations from performance to performance. A polarized screen keeps nearby patrons from being distracted by light or moving text. The system made its debut in Deaf West’s production of Big River on Broadway and was available for all performances of the national touring companies.

Ford’s patrons can obtain an I-Caption unit, free of charge, from house management.


Deaf audiences can ‘see’ dialogue

April 2007

Thanks to government and Arts Council grants, more and more theatres are able to offer captioned performances to people with impaired hearing. Captioning is an emerging craft that demands a combination of skills – not least the ability to maintain concentration for long periods. £1m is being spent to improve access to performances. In theory, captioning a live stage performance should be si mplicity itself – all the lines are loaded into a computer so all you have to do is display them at the right time. If only it were that simple. Roz Chalmers was one of the first people to train as a captioner and admits that in the early days, the whole process was a question of trial and error.  Full Story


Interested in Captioned Theater?

February 2008

A non-profit agency called c2 (caption coalition) is providing captioned theater at many locations throughout the US. If you’ve given up live theater because you can’t understand the dialog, you might want to consider attending one of their captioned performances in Ashland, Boston, Ft Lauderdale, Hartford, Lakewood, Los Angeles, Manhattan, Miami, Minneapolis, Newark, New Brunswick, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington DC, Wayne, Westport and West Palm Beach, with more to come.   Full Story


Live play captioning is a first for Rochester

December 2008

In a first for off-Broadway entertainment in Rochester, one performance of Mamma Mia! at the Auditorium Theatre will have live captioning for hard-of-hearing and deaf audience members. An LED panel – similar to a “now boarding” sign at an airport gate – will be positioned to the left of the stage during the musical’s matinee today. Three lines will scroll up the 4-foot-wide, 1-foot-tall screen, one line at a time, and be easily viewed from 20-some rows to house left. The 2-inch-high amber-colored text will be loaded into a laptop computer, but scrolled live, allowing any unscripted speech to be added. Rochester is known for having a large deaf population for its size. But significantly more people – likely more than 100,000 people in Monroe County – have some degree of hearing loss. Captioning can help people with varied levels of hearing, including those without hearing aids and those who don’t know American Sign Language, as long as they can read English.  Full Story


Seattle theaters becoming more accessible

April 2009

Seattle’s vibrant drama scene continues to become more accessible to people with hearing loss, as both the Intiman Theatre and the Seattle Repertory Theatre take concrete steps towards offering captioned performances and Paramount Theatre releases its full schedule of captioned shows in 2009. Following our written requests for captioned performances, I had a very productive meeting earlier this week with Intiman’s incoming and outgoing Board presidents and two of its key staff members. Intiman is receptive to the idea of captioning one performance of each of its annual productions, and is currently seeking financial support from the Theatre Development Fund of New York to make that possible. (One of TDF’s missions is to enhance accessibility of live theater). Seattle Repertory Theatre is in the same situation. It plans to start offering captioned performances beginning this fall, and it is looking for funding as well, also from TDF.  Full Story


Captioned Live Theater Performances

Sept 2009

Here’s a list of captioned live theater performances in the US. If you know of a captioned performance that isn’t included, I bet the folks running this website would love to hear about it!  Full Story


Seattle Live Theaters Provide Captioning for Holiday Shows

December 2009

Thanks to the good efforts of a number of Seattle’s live theaters, those of us with hearing loss won’t need to have a holiday season full of nothing but silent nights, as we’ll have a menu of captioned performances available to us. [snip]  The captioning at all three theaters is being done by c2net from Boston, which converts the script into text form in advance, then displays the captions on a portable reader board visible from a bloc of seats set aside for those who request them.  The captioning effort has been partially funded by the Theatre Development Fund from New York City. The captioning efforts were undertaken after requests from the Washington State Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP), a non-profit membership corporation whose purpose is to improve access to Washington’s public places for people with hearing loss.  Full Story


Theater Development Fund Makes Live Theater Accessible

March 2010

The next time you complain about not being able to see the stage from the nosebleed sections of a Broadway theater, think about not being able to see the stage at all. “No one wants to feel left out of a performance,” said Lisa Carling, the director of the Theater Development Fund’s accessibility program, which offers assistance to theatergoers with physical disabilities. “If you miss a punchline or a dramatic statement, everyone else is included but you are not.” The Theater Development Fund, which also runs the city’s TKTS discount ticket booths, helps coordinate services for the blind or those with low vision, the deaf or hard of hearing and patrons who can’t climb stairs or need wheelchair seating. “When we started 13 years ago, advocates for the disabled came to us and said, ‘Please, I haven’t been able to go to the theater for years because my hearing has deteriorated,'” said Ms. Carling. “People were staying away from the theater.” Ms. Carling recently spoke to The Times about what kinds of services the TDF Accessibility Program, or TAP,  offers to the disabled. Following are excerpts from her conversation.   Full Story


Oregon Shakespeare Festival captions 11 plays this year

March 2010

Deaf actor Howie Seago knows how hard it can be for deaf audience members to experience plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. “I’ve had to hassle with reading scripts with a small light to follow the plays,” Seago said in an e-mail sent in-between performances of “Hamlet,” in which he plays the ghost of a murdered king. Seago said he is pleased by OSF’s growing efforts to offer captioned plays for the deaf community. During the 2010 season, OSF is offering an all-time high of 11 captioned performances for deaf and hearing impaired audience members. The captions appear on a light emitting diode, or LED, board that is set up near the bottom of the stage to the audience’s left. “There are more and more deaf people becoming interested in the OSF shows and it is great to offer them the flexibility of when to see them,” Seago said. “I, myself, will be now able to easily access the other shows I’m not in.”  Full Story


Oregon Shakespeare Festival to Become Totally Accessible

by John Waldo

November 2010

The renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival has developed plans that, when fully implemented, will make it the nation’s most accessible live theater for people with hearing loss. OSF will schedule 20 captioned drama presentations in the 2011 season, almost doubling its scheduled captioned offerings in 2010. But even better, OSF hopes to be able to offer open captioning on request (once the captions are completed) for any of its plays, given adequate notice. Those plans were unveiled at a mid-October meeting involving OSF’s Executive Director Paul Nicholson, Access Coordinator Jim Amberg and Audience Service Manager Radawna Wallace, Oregon Communication Access Project (OR-CAP) Vice President Clark Anderson and me, representing both OR-CAP and the Washington State Communication Access Project (Wash-CAP). OSF is located in Ashland, Oregon, a lovely but remote small town located almost equidistant between Sacramento, California and Portland, Oregon. It draws patrons from throughout the nation, but most come from California, Oregon and Washington. Unlike patrons at a typical live theater in a major city like Seattle, patrons don’t tend to go to Ashland multiple times during a season. Rather, they go for a long weekend or a full week, and see a number of plays, often two per day. Full Story

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