Captions in the arts

Using captions allows a wider range of people to enjoy the theatre experience. Essential for the 4.5 million Australians who are Deaf or hearing impaired, captions are also beneficial for children and those who speak English as a second language.

Captions can also be useful for hearing theatre patrons, especially when the performance involves dialects or strong accents, when words are being sung or when actors are speaking and singing off-stage.

Captions are prepared from the script of a play, musical or opera by highly trained staff. During the performance, the captions are displayed on a screen allowing the audience to read what is being said while the artists perform.

Theatre captioning can be delivered in an open format where everyone can see the screen the captions are displayed on. The screens are generally placed somewhere on the proscenium arch at the front of the stage but may also be integrated into the production's set.

Closed captions, which are only seen by those who require them, are becoming available in theatre. Mobile apps, such as Go Theatrical Mobile, allow professionally produced closed captions to be delivered directly to audience members’ tablets or smartphones.

A number of major Australian theatre companies regularly caption performances each season, including the Sydney Theatre Company, Canberra Theatre Centre and Melbourne Theatre Company. Australia currently has one theatre captioning provider, The Captioning Studio that provides both open and closed formats.

To find out if a theatre near you shows captioned performances please contact them directly. If a theatre doesn't currently offer captioning, ask at the box office when they will begin to offer the service.


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