Theatre Development Fund's (TDF) program to enable the hard of hearing and deaf to experience theatre, Theatre Access Project (TAP), is presenting the first-ever open captioned performances in London.
TAP director Lisa Carling, and Don DePew, the New York City court reporter who invented this process of open captioning, will work with the Society of London Theatres (SOLT) on the open captioning project.
The plan is for Carling and Depew to accompany a group of deaf and hard of hearing theatregoers to London. There, DePew will open caption a performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Antony and Cleopatra at The Barbican on March 28 and a performance of Alan Ayckbourn's West End hit, Comic Potential at The Lyric Theatre on March 30.
TDF's hearing impaired theatregoers will be able to experience not only London's first ever open captioned performances, but the chance to see Comic Potential star Janie Dee shortly after winning the "triple crown" of British Best Actress Awards - the Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Awards.
According to TDF, which is the same group that runs the popular TKTS discount tickets booth at Duffy Park near Times Square the TAP program has presented hundreds of sign interpreted performances of Broadway shows since 1980 as well as open captioned performances since 1997. In a paper statement, TDF executive director Jack Goldstein said, "TDF is honored to have the opportunity to present open captioning for the first time in London. We hope that it is as well received by the deaf and hard of hearing theatregoers of London as it has been here in New York."
Rupert Rhymes, chief executive of The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) said, "The Society of London Theatre welcomes this initiative as it complements perfectly our on-going programme to promote disabled access in the West End."
TDF reports that open captioning appears in red letters on a small digital screen which is located in front of one side section of the orchestra. Scrolled manually in synchronization with the dialogue on stage, the script is entered ahead of time by open caption developer and operator, Don DePew, so that the captions appear with no time delays or transcription errors during the performance.
TAP has presented opened captioned performances of the Broadway productions of: Annie Get Your Gun, Marie Christine, Swing, Art, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Electra, Footloose, Side Man, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Twelfth Night among others.
TDF's Theatre Access Project (TAP) was established in 1979 to provide access to the performing arts for people with physical disabilities. Since 1980, TAP has presented 259 sign language interpreted performances of 125 Broadway and Off Broadway shows. Upcoming open captioned performances in New York City include: Dinner With Friends (April 8) and Amadeus (April 27).
For information on how to obtain discounted tickets to open captioned performances, sign language interpreted performance and other TAP services for people with disabilities, contact Theatre Development Fund at: Voice (212) 221-1103; TTY (212) 719-4537; or by e-mail at email@example.com.
-- By Murdoch McBride