Theater offers live captioning

December 28, 2008 6:54:51 AM PST
Theater stimulates the audience's mind. One Chicago theater goes an extra mile for patrons with disabilities using a technology made for the deaf and hard of hearing. Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater has been providing accommodations to patrons with disabilities since the mid 90s. This includes captioning, something that is only offered at this theater.

Co-director of the Access Project Mike Ervin explains why they have captioned performances.

"There's essentially two kinds of deaf people, those who are born deaf who tend to speak sign language and those who become deaf later in life who don't really communicate through sign language as well, because it's like learning a whole new language as an adult, so they tend to communicate through captioning," said Ervin.

Their captioning runs though a PowerPoint program, says associate artistic director Sandy Shinner.

"We have the scripts electronically, and then it's formatted in a PowerPoint presentation and then presented both on the small television screens and on a screen, a larger screen sometimes integrated into the set design, sometimes to the side of the set on the wall," Shinner said.

It's easy to follow and read.

"We go through the script to make it artistically pleasing, so we inset space blank slides," said Shinner. "We try to time it, so that for instance if the actors are going to have a joke, we don't give the joke away before the actors actually speak the words."

At times it can be a challenge.

"The actors are usually really nervous about that actually, but they are pretty close to the text," said Shinner.

Captioning is only available for specific performances.

"We could do it at every single performance, we would just have to pay someone else to be in the booth and advance text," said Shinner. "Hopefully more will follow someday, but we think it's a relatively simple great thing to do that appeals to a large group of people who just can't hear very well and want more than just listening devices and still want to keep coming to theater."

Victory Gardens has a play scheduled for spring called "Love Person" that features actors using American Sign Language.

www.victorygardens.org


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