I love attending the theater, but with hearing loss it can be challenging. The dialogue moves quickly, performers sometimes speak in heavy accents, and the phrasing of the songs can make it hard to understand what is being said. What a dream it would be if the performances were captioned. Well, it turns out some of them are!
Last week, I attended my first open captioned performance on Broadway. It was wonderful! The show, Tuck Everlasting, was a fun musical set in a magical woods outside a provincial town. It dealt with life and death, and asked the question, “Would you want to live forever?” The dialogue was fun, the sets beautiful, and the 11-year old star a dynamo. And the captions were a huge help. I even saw my husband (no hearing loss) glancing over a few times to pick up a line of dialogue or two that he missed.
The captions were sponsored by Theater Development Fund (TDF), a non-profit organization based in New York City which, according to its website, “has been working to encourage and enable diverse audiences to attend live theater and dance productions” since 1968. This includes sponsoring open captioned performances on Broadway like the one I attended, but also audio described performance for the blind, sign language interpreted shows, and autism-friendly performances. Tickets are offered through its website for members who demonstrate eligibility. You can join for free here.
As you can see from the photo, the captions were set up discretely in one corner of the theater, making it quite easy for me to see them from where I was seated in the prime orchestra section set aside for the TDF Accessibility Program (TAP) tickets. The service is open to everyone seated in this section, without the need for any special equipment or headsets. This makes the open captions a form of passive assistance, meaning that it can be used by all people, regardless of their age or ability. It also makes it very easy to attend the theater with a group of people with mixed degrees of hearing. The captions are there if you need them, but are easily ignored if you don’t.
The open captions were set up on a slight delay so that if you missed something in the dialogue or song, you had the opportunity to quickly slide your eyes to the side to check the captions. I utilized that feature a number of times, particularly during the musical numbers. This helped me to laugh along with the audience at many crucial moments. It was a huge success. I plan to attend another open captioned performance very soon.
You can check for an open captioned performance outside of NYC by clicking here.
Readers, have you attended an open captioned theater performance?