Get Thee to an Open-Captioned Play!: Captioning Grants for Theater


For theater enthusiasts, captioned performances are anything but new. Classic operas, traditionally written in Italian (the word opera means “work” in that language), are often accompanied by small hand-held translation screens or open-captioned screens beside the stage so that a non-Italian-speaking audience can understand what the heck is going on.

It would seem like a natural progression that an English language theater performance would be available with captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. While this is the case for many Broadway productions, theater, by nature, demands a full cast and a limited audience for each performance, unlike TV programming — for this reason, some theaters may THINK they lack the budget to make their production accessible. The fact is, live captioning can be acquired at a rate that a theater director can afford, and even this rate could be eligible for a grant from the National Open Captioning Initiative, sponsored by the Theater Development Fund. This fund subsidizes the cost of having theater performances open-captioned, especially for small theaters that think they may not otherwise be able to afford it.

Applications are closed for the 2013-2014 season, but bookmark the page and come back to it next summer, when the program will open again! Some testimonials from viewers at the Clarence Brown Theater at the University of Tennessee, a participant in the program:

“As a hard-of-hearing adult, I always ‘missed’ things. I haven’t attended a movie theater for years because of this. Having the open-captioning turned the CBT from a great to an exceptional experience for me! My guest, who was very pleased for me, did not find the captioning detracting in any way.” -Sharon

“Although I don’t require the captioning, it was helpful to catch some lines which I did not hear and/or understand specially with the British accent. The captioning was definitely not a distraction and added to the enjoyment of the play.” -Joy

There you have it. Captioning attracts new audiences and clarifies the King’s English for an American audience. Check out if there’s a participating show coming to your town!