The Stars Have Aligned for Open-caption Performance at Elmwood

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No two performances are exactly the same. That’s the beauty and the challenge of live theatre. And it is a particular challenge for captioner Robert Clark of C2, who will be providing the open captions for the Elmwood performance of The Lifespan of a Fact on Thursday February 2 at 8 pm. “Live open captioning is an art form in and of itself,” he told us when he met with the cast and crew recently in preparation for the upcoming performance. Having worked as a captioner for over a decade, Clark had many stories to tell of how he adjusts and pivots to ensure that the captions are always an accurate reflection of how and when the dialogue and sound happen onstage.

Elmwood Playhouse’s mission is to make high-quality, live theater available within our community; thus we strive to ensure that we address its diverse needs.
According to the 2022 census, about 3.5% of the population has significant hearing loss. That number is reflected in our local population, with the NYS Department of Health statistics indicating that approximately 3% of Rockland County residents report partial or total hearing loss. In 2013, the theater installed a T-Coil Hearing Assist system, but when it was suggested by Jonathan Taylor, President of the NYC chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America that we consider open-captioning, the theater’s Board of Directors recognized the opportunity to further increase the accessibility of Elmwood’s productions.

The director of The Lifespan of a Fact, Claudia Stefany, works with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, a group in Putnam County that has provided open-captioned performances for many years. Stefany put the theater in touch with C2, a pioneer in providing open-captions on Broadway. C2 provides the technology and the expertise to ensure a seamless integration of captions and performance.

Captioner Robert Clark meets with the cast of The Lifespan of a Fact

Captioner Robert Clark meets with the cast of The Lifespan of a Fact on the set. From left to right: Meg Sewell, Robert Clark, John Ade, Hillel Rosenshine.

Just as live theatre is a different experience than watching a movie or television program, open caption is different from closed caption. Closed captions are pre-programmed. While the viewer can change the font or other display options of closed captions on a screen, the timing and wording remain static. Open captions are delivered live. The captioner is delivering the dialogue and sounds in real-time, how and when they happen on stage.

Elmwood is very excited to premier open-captioning with the Thursday Feb 2 performance of The Lifespan of a Fact. Surprisingly, there are few, if any, opportunities for theatre lovers who have hearing loss to experience live theatre in our county. Elmwood was fortunate that in a serendipitous “small world” scenario, we were able to make the connections and arrangements that quickly took this first effort from a “What if?” suggestion to an exciting reality! Elmwood is proud to begin this journey of expanding accessibility for patrons with hearing loss as part of its overall goal of bringing the joy of live theatre to as many people as possible in our community.

Tickets and information at
Box Office Phone: 845 353 1313.
The open captioned performance is Thursday February 2 at 8 pm. Captions are comfortably visible from all seats. A certified ASL interpreter will be available at check-in with the Box Office on the evening of the performance. Tickets are $27/$24 for Seniors, Youth, and Military. Elmwood Playhouse is located at 10 Park Street in Nyack, NY.

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