This week StageTEXT are launching the first ever Captioning Awareness Week which aims to bring together cultural venues and caption users from all over to celebrate and raise awareness of captioning and subtitling.
Laura, Director of Communications at StageTEXT, has written a guest blog explaining what captioning is, the aims of the week and how interested venues can find out more about captioning ahead of Disabled Access Day.
Are you #CAPaware?
15 years ago this month, three theatregoers with different types of deafness met up in London with a group of deaf and hard of hearing theatregoers from New York. They were interested to see a new technology in action that the American visitors had brought with them from Broadway. The technology was captioning.
What was demonstrated that night, at an RSC production of Antony and Cleopatra at the Barbican Theatre, was a system whereby the words of the actors would appear on a screen above or near the stage, at the same time as they were being spoken. At a time when many deaf and hard of hearing theatregoers would read the script with a torch at the back of the theatre, or not access theatre at all, this new technology would see a step change for deaf, deafened and hard of hearing theatregoers around the UK.
Skip forward to November 2015 and Stagetext is set to celebrate its 15 year anniversary. The charity now captions over 300 theatre performances a year around the UK, supports many more theatres to caption their own productions and just this week, saw the first captioned cinema encore screenings of NT Live, a perfect time then to raise the profile of captioning even further, with the first Captioning Awareness Week.
What is captioning?
If you haven’t seen a captioned performance, you might not know that theatre captions are similar to television subtitles. The actors’ words appear on a screen (or screens), placed next to the stage or in the set, at the same time as they are spoken or sung. Unlike opera surtitles, captions include additional information such as speaker names, sound effects and offstage noises. It’s a great service for those who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as those who might not hear as well as they used to, or in venues where the acoustics are not the best. You can find out if your local theatre offers captioning by visiting the ‘What’s on’ section of Stagetext’s website, where performances are listed year round.
Captioning in museums and galleries
Recent advances in technology have also enabled Stagetext to branch out into the museum and gallery sector, providing live subtitles for talks, lectures and also for tours, where they developed the use of tablets to deliver accessible tours. On a tour, customers can move around with a handheld tablet and read along live as the tour leader speaks. No straining to hear or having to fight your way to the front, as the text of what is being said is right there in front of you. You can even wander away from the tour group to look around an exhibition, and still follow what the speaker is saying.
Captioning Awareness Week
For Captioning Awareness Week, Stagetext are aiming to bring together cultural venues and caption users from all over the country, to celebrate and raise awareness of captioning and live subtitling. They want as many people as possible to get involved, including those who might not have tried captioning and live subtitles before.
So why are they doing this? There are an estimated 10 million people in the UK that are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing - that’s 1 in 6 of us, and it’s set to increase to 14 million by 2030. Many people can benefit from Stagetext’s services, but some of them simply don’t know they exist.
You can join Stagetext in celebrating their 15th anniversary by helping to spread the word about captioning throughout Captioning Awareness Week 2015. If you’ve never tried a captioned show, why not try one during #CAPaware Week? There are captioned shows and live subtitled events on during the week and, in partnership with Digital Theatre, Stagetext are also holding an online Watch-along of Into the Woods.
Alternatively you could get into the latest digital craze and take a selfie on your captioned theatre trip and tweet it to #CAPaware, or take a picture of yourself with the words ‘I’m #CAPaware’ or 'I’m supporting Captioning Awareness Week’ and, if you are on twitter, why not tweet about your favourite captioning experiences? Which venue do you like the best and why? What’s been your favourite captioned play? All using the hashtag #CAPaware. If you don’t use social media you can email Emily at email@example.com and Stagetext will tweet your message for you.
You can find more information on captioned shows or events with live subtitles at www.stagetext.org, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Captioning and Disabled Access Day
If you work for a venue and are considering programming a captioned performance or live subtitled talk at your organisation, ahead of Disabled Access Day, please visit www.stagetext.org for more information. You can also contact their Theatre Programme Manager Bethan Way, at email@example.com or their Talks Programme Manager, Deepa Shastri at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how the services work, booking events, costs and availability.
On Disabled Access Day we’re hoping there will be lots of captioned performances taking place across the UK. So far the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh has a captioned performance of The Crucible: a classic tale of witch hunt in colonial New England and the Wale Millennium Centre will be showing a captioned performance of Tom: A Story of Tom Jones The Musical.