Just Your Type: What Are Captioned Performances?

Posted on 9 November 2016

This week we’re celebrating Captioning Awareness Week! But what is Captioning? And who is it for?

Captioned performances help those who might be hard of hearing to keep up with what is on stage. Captioning units are placed in a visible spot on stage and provide subtitles for the dialogue stage as well as describing any sound effects or music, so the audience can follow the story and understand what is going on, even if they cannot hear it. However, if you have trouble following what’s happening in a play, are trying to learn English as a second language, or even if you’re just seeing a new musical or opera and want to know the words, captioning is a fantastic way to make sure everyone knows what’s going on on stage.

A trained captioner prepares the captions in advance and checks to make sure that they match the actors’ delivery. The captioner also works closely with the production team, to make sure that any changes to the script are incorporated into the captioning and they also add sound effects and offstage noises.

At the performance, the captioner cues the lines as the action unfolds on stage. If there are any changes to what is in the script, if an actor ad-libs, or misses a line, the captioner makes sure the relevant lines are added or taken away so that the captions follow exactly what is being said.

Timing of the captions is very important so as not to have text come up too soon, especially if the text involves a key punchline or joke. It is also important that the text does not fall behind the actors’ speech because then things that the actors are doing won’t make sense, and people can’t ‘hear’ them in real time.

The Belgrade does a number of captioned performances, particularly for its home-produced shows. We have a captioned performance of Dick Whittington on Thursday 8 December.