What is Audio Description?
Audio Description (AD)
is a relatively new service being provided in Singapore
– the first two instances were in April 2019.
The aim of audio description
is to provide a live commentary of the visual aspects
of a performance to enable blind and vision-
to visualise the non-
As one of 11 describers trained by Access2Arts (Adelaide) in Singapore in 2018,
I wrote this journal in order to give readers an understanding of what audio description involves, in the hope that:
A) It encourages more theatre companies/event producers to consider offering audio-
B) It will help anyone interested in becoming an audio-
The Audio Description Process
STEP 1 I watched the final dress rehearsal of Gretel and Hansel together with my audio-
We work as a team because the audio describing experience during the actual performance is intense. It requires tremendous concentration – and adaptability too because, as it’s a live performance, the text and its delivery won’t be exactly the same as in the shows we have observed. (Being a team is also best practice, in case one of us falls sick on the day.)
Our challenge is to say all that we need to say (in order to help our end-
After the show, Grace shares a couple of exciting ideas for the touch tour (another good reason for working in a team!) We want to give these vision-
STEP 2: We receive a video of the performance, plus a soft copy of the script.
We have three tasks:
Task 1: to prepare a pre-
Task 2: to audio record this introduction, together with details of the production team and the venue (highlighting booking, travel and access options for our AD patrons). This audio-
Task 3: to write our script for the actual audio description, using our notes and minute-
STEP 3: We go to see another performance of the play.
Why? Partly to become familiar with the show (and to hear audience reactions!) and partly because performances evolve. Sometimes there are changes in the script, pacing is picked up or ‘business’ is added or cut. We know which moments in the play are difficult for us to describe and we pay close attention to them.
We take this opportunity to meet and befriend the Stage Manager. We need the SM’s whole-
What happens on a touch-
STEP 4: The Dry Run.
Now Grace and I are in a room where we can see the stage, but we are not in the Auditorium, so we can speak without distracting the rest of the audience. We have a volunteer end-
STEP 5: The Actual performance.
Our call is 90 minutes before showtime. We meet those who have signed up for the Audio Description service (it’s free for patrons) and 75 minutes before showtime we bring them into the theatre and onto stage for the touch tour.
THE TOUCH TOUR is a highlight of the AD experience. It usually takes about 30 minutes. We explore the geography of the set, learn why there are magnets sewn into the Fedora hat (and feel the distinctive shape of a fedora!) and, very exciting for our young tour group, get to meet the two actors who star in the show (and learn they are adults playing children!) They demonstrate their character voices.
Once the tour is over, Grace and I go to the booth where we’ll deliver the description, while the Front-
15 minutes before the show begins, we start the pre-
The show begins and we describe, describe, describe.
When the show is over, the last thing we do is to thank the patrons for their support of the service and encourage them to give their feedback, as we believe it is an essential part of helping us to improve.
In the lobby, we get some real feedback. A blind mother who came with her family is thrilled, as the description meant she could enjoy the show at the same time with her family. Two kids animatedly discuss which was the best bit of the play. The touch tour has really made their visit special in a very positive way (other audience members don’t get to learn stage secrets or meet the actors!)
What does it take to be an effective
If you think you can just walk in to the performance and start describing what you are seeing happening on stage, think again !
Read my journal and you’ll see why the extensive preparation is required.
In my experience, I’d say the following criteria are important:
This icon means an audio description service is available
© Roger Jenkins Pte Ltd 2020 | Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
My next Audio Described Performance:
7 March 7pm