Planning your first captioned show

You’re planning your first captioned performance – excellent!

The first thing to check is whether the show is suitable. If it is scripted, it should be suitable for captioning, but if it is devised or improvised, this may require careful planning (if this is the case, contact Stagetext for further advice).

Next, work out your timescales. Captioners need time to prepare, and you need time to plan and market the show, so consider the following:

  • Script. You’ll need to send an up-to-date Word copy of the script to the captioner in advance so they can format the script into the captioning software (PDF documents are not compatible). Agree timings for this with your captioner, but typically this should be a month or two ahead of the show.
  • DVD of the show. You need to provide an up-to-date DVD of the show two weeks in advance so the captioner can prepare their captions to match the play and practise their timing. If the show is touring and will be with you for less than two weeks, then you could ask one of the venues earlier in the tour to make a recording for you. This DVD is vital and must be provided, as without it, the captioner won’t be able to do their job.
  • Date of the captioned performance. This needs to be scheduled so the captioner has time to check their script and see the performance live at your venue at least twice (or at another venue if it’s on tour before it reaches you) and arrange to do script checks before the date of the captioned show. Often, captioned shows are scheduled towards the end of a play’s run to allow time for checks to take place.
  • Reserving tickets for deaf members of the audience. Can you reserve seats in an appropriate area (with a good view of the unit and the stage) for deaf and hard of hearing patrons? This may be difficult if tickets have already gone on sale for a popular production or if you have not yet seen the stage design.
  • Pricing. You will need to decide your policy about offering discounts for captioned performances. One reason venues decide to discount is because the best seats for viewing the captions are often in the most expensive area of the auditorium, which could be seen as being discriminatory against caption users.
  • Equipment. If you do not own your own equipment, do you have access to captioning equipment that is available on the day of the performance, and are your technical team aware of how to set it up? Also, tell your captioner what sort of equipment you have as it may affect the software they need to prepare the script in.
  • Caption unit position. It’s never too early to start thinking about the position of the caption unit. If possible, talk to the director of the play, and the set designer, about the best position and be prepared to persuade them to agree the best position for your caption-using audience. If the show hasn’t been designed yet, you might have to make a final decision after the play has opened. (More about this later)
  • Talk to the creative, marketing and technical departments. If your venue has never hosted a captioned performance, talk to your colleagues about what is involved well in advance, and ensure that they are happy with the potential date of the show.
  • Clashes. Although it’s sometimes unavoidable, try to schedule your show so it doesn’t clash with other captioned shows nearby. Do this by checking the listings on the Stagetext website and if you’re based in London, on the Access London Theatre website.

Now go to: Booking a captioner