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photograph of Ruth McCreery

Saying Goodbye to Ruth McCreery

Posted: 8 September, 2017

This September we say goodbye to Ruth McCreery, a longstanding and valued theatre and live performance captioner.

We thank Ruth for her years of service to ADI, the arts sector and to all the audiences she has made the arts accessible too. Ruth has shown ‘unflappable’ commitment to access over her 9 years working with us. Her calm and professional approach to her work meant her colleagues, audiences, venue managers, directors, producers, technicians, actors and everyone she came into contact with found her a joy to work with.

Ruth was one of 2 captioners who trained for Arts & Disability Ireland in 2008, when we commissioned training through Stagetext, the main provider of captioning in the UK. During her time providing access for audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing, Ruth has captioned in theatres up and down Ireland – from Siamsa Tíre in Tralee, Co Kerry to An Grianán in Letterkenny, Co Donegal. You would also regularly find her high up above the audience, in the tech box of the Abbey Theatre, where 77 performances have been captioned since they introduced the service for audiences in 2007.

We asked Ruth to give a little insight into her time as captioner before she retires!

Why did you become a captioner?

I had been working with the National Association for the Deaf (now DeafHear) for some years as an electronic note taker for deaf and hard of hearing people. I was aware that captioning for the theatre was coming to Ireland and that Arts & Disability Ireland were planning to train some captioners. I thought this sounded really interesting and, as it was already in the area I was working, I decided to express my interest and subsequently applied for the position… the rest is history!

What did you like about being a captioner?

What I liked most was the fact that captioning gives deaf and hard of hearing people the same opportunity to enjoy a live theatre performance just like everyone else. I’ve enjoyed so much variety in the work, from Shakespeare to musicals! I’ve also enjoyed working in different venues and meeting many interesting people in the arts world whose paths I might never have crossed.

What were the biggest challenges about being a captioner?

For me, one of the biggest challenges when captioning a live performance, was to ensure to keep in time with the actors so the text appeared exactly as the actors were speaking. To display text too soon could potentially ruin an important punch line!! Also, each captioned performance brought different challenges, one example is when actors ad lib!!

What type of live performance did you enjoy captioning the most?

To be honest, the performances I enjoyed captioning most were the ones I would choose to see myself!

Were there any standout moments during your captioning career?

An equipment malfunction ten minutes before a performance was due to begin – that’s a standout moment I won’t forget! Another was recently when a gentleman passed on his appreciation of captioning and expressed how it had given him a memorable experience.

Ruth will deliver her last captioned performance for Katie Roche by Teresa Deevy at the Abbey Theatre on Saturday 23rd September at 2pm. Book tickets here.

Find out more about upcoming accessible arts events here

What is captioning?
Captioning gives deaf and hard of hearing people access to live performances and screenings. It is similar to television and film subtitling.

Captioning converts the spoken word into text, which is displayed on one or more caption units situated on, above or next to the stage.

As well as dialogue, the captions include the name of the character who is speaking or singing, as well as descriptions of any sound effects and any safety announcements. In addition to assisting people who are deaf or hard of hearing, captioned performances have been found to benefit foreign visitors and students who are studying the play or learning to speak English.

The History of captioning in Ireland
In 2006 ADI secured capital funding from the Arts Council to purchase audio description and captioning equipment as well as a portable loop system. At this time, audio describers and captioners were brought in from Northern Ireland and the UK, and it was not until 2008/2009 that a locally based pool of two captioners and three audio describers was realised, when UK companies Stagetext and the Audio Description Association were commissioned to audition and train in Dublin.

In 2007 the Abbey Theatre premiered the first captioned performance, a new version of The Playboy of the Western World. Between 2011 and 2016, ADI has worked with 33 venues across Ireland to deliver accessible performances to audiences with disabilities. We will continue to work with our venue and festival partners to ensure that audiences with disabilities enjoy seamless, holistic and person-centred experiences.

Druid Theatre Company's Waiting for Godot, audio described by Ruth McCreery in the Abbey Theatre, 20th May, 2017.

Captioning gives deaf and hard of hearing people the same opportunity to enjoy a live theatre performance just like everyone else.

Ruth McCreery

The Arts

Abbey Theatre
Accessible Performances
Ruth McCreery

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