If you are a company about to use the services of an audio describer, there are a few things that you should be prepared to do in order to make the service more enjoyable for your patrons. The sequence of events usually goes like this.

The describers will come and see the show. You will provide tickets with seats that give a good clear view of the stage from a central point of view, not too near the front. The describers will watch the performance and take notes about the set, costumes and the characters.

These notes will then be recorded in the form of an audio introduction, that you can burn onto a CD and send to your customers when they book for the AD performance. Sometimes a web link can be made available to listen to online. This gives your patrons the opportunity to hear the notes well in advance and become familiar with the set, costumes and characters.

You provide the describer with a copy of the play script - hard copy or e-mail - and a DVD recording of a recent performance of the show.

The dvd should be filmed in one sequence giving a clear view of the whole of the performance area. There is no need for close up shots, or following characters around the stage, this is not helpful to the describer. Just press record and let it run. When there are two describers working on a show it might be helpful to provide  a separate DVD of the first and second half of the show, provided there’s an interval.

The describers will then watch the dvd and write the description of the show alongside the play script in order to be as accurate as they can and, as much as possible, to avoid clashing with the dialogue.

The evening before the performance, the describers will come to the theatre early an do a sound check of the equipment, followed by a dry run of the show, in order to rehearse and listen to each other and to give each other notes. You should provide a ticket that the describers can share.

On the day of the performance a touch tour can be arranged usually an hour and a half before curtain up in order for the patrons to get a sense of the space and know, physically, where everything is onstage. It's an opportunity to look at props and costume and at times meet the actors. This can be invaluable for tuning in to the voices of the actors when they are performing. The touch tour would normally last twenty minutes, or so. The describers would liaise with front of house and company stage managers.

Fifteen minutes before curtain up, the audio introduction will be read live, for those patrons who have not heard it yet and in order to make sure that the headsets are all working.

Then, it's showtime!

© William Elliott 2018