Open Captions On Broadway!

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.

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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?

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38 thoughts on “Open Captions On Broadway!

  1. Exceptional! Am so glad you were able to enjoy the theater which I find very difficult. If more theaters would do this what a wonder it would be! More patrons like me would attend. Like you I find that captioning on the TV is very helpful and without it I am lost. So happy you had such a positive experience! Wonder how we can get the theaters to embrace this? I suppose just asking might be a first step right?

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  2. I have been attending closed captioned performances in NYC for a couple years and they are great. Also most of the Broadway theaters also have devices that work with the telecoils in hearing aids and bring the sound directly to your hearing aids. You need to make sure you request the correct headset. There are a limited number of closed captioned performances – using the headset you can go to any performance.

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    • Can you clarify this? I used the independent headsets at a couple of Broadway shows and I wasn’t thrilled with them. Are you saying these connect with my hearing aids? I needed to take them out in order to use the headset.

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      • I think the term is induction loop. There are a couple different models they can provide. There is a neckloop that you put around your neck and this connects wirelessly to the telecoil in your hearing aids. It’s the same sound as when you switch to the telecoil for a phone conversation. I wear BTE hearing aids, so if there is any problem with the transmission, I can hang the headset so it is on top of the microphone for my hearing aids – sound is not as good but it works….
        I always contact whatever venue I’m going to before I go – I want to make sure they know I’m hearing impaired and I need assistance. I’ve found that most places are extremely helpful and anxious to help you.

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  3. We have attended many Broadway shows that were captioned. Besides the benefits of not missing anything, you get wonderful seats right near the stage at huge discounts.
    There are many local theaters offering captions also. Contact Hearing Loss Association to get information

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  4. I’m so glad to hear that you are enjoying the open captioned performances arranged by TDF. I innovated open captioned live theater back in 1996 at Paper Mill Playhouse in NJ, and with TDF in 1997.
    I’ve blogged about the history of it here –
    http://arleneromoff.blogspot.com/2013/06/captioning-advocacy-playbill-from-first.html

    TDF also runs OC incentive programs for regional theaters, and many performing arts centers and regional theaters across the country now also provide OC performances.
    We brought OC to London in 2000, and the Brits started Stagetext soon after -http://www.stagetext.org/
    providing OC to theaters in the UK. And there’s also OC live theater in Australia!

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  5. Reblogged this on CCAC Blog and commented:
    Happy to re-blog her new experience with live theater captioning – oh yes – ask for it folks – never give up – CCAC will advocate with you.
    CCACaptioning.org – the Place 2 B 4 Captioning Advocacy
    All media and Live Events also – quality captioning is the world’s language

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  6. […] Recently I attended an open captioned performance event for people with hearing loss. At intermission, I was gushing about the captions to my husband and the gentleman seated behind me must have overheard. “Why are you so enamored of the captions,” he asked. I was excited to have the opportunity to sing the praises of the open captions and help build awareness about hearing loss. I told him that I have a hearing loss and that the captions help me catch the dialogue I might otherwise have missed. They really help me enjoy attending the theater. […]

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