n SATJ : South African Theatre Journal - One ear on the stage and one in the audience? – audio description and listening to theatre as dramaturgical exercise

Volume 32 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1013-7548
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This article looks at conceptualizations of audio description of theatre performances, which commonly are provided in real-time for visually impaired spectators. While audio descriptions can be formally categorized as a type of extra-diegetic paratext, like translators’ notes, they are however quite unique in their performative aspect. The article argues for a new understanding of this type of ‘crossmodal’ translation [Fryer 2016. An introduction to audio description: a practical guide. Oxford: Routledge] in regarding it as an integral part of a performance. Regarding audio description as a multisensory practice results not only in the inquiry into a format, but offers on a more philosophical level, a new perspective on the limits and possibilities of performative aspects of listening in theatre. The article builds on exercises with international dramaturgy students in Amsterdam regarding a dramaturgical take on the making-of audio descriptions (2017) and, as entrance example, on the performance Blind Cinema by Britt Hatzius, which draws creatively on considerations vital to the practice of audio description. Questions emerging from the study and production of audio descriptions revolve around (un)translatability and dramaturgical choices, requiring the author to consider aesthetic, cultural and sensory factors involved in the preparation and performance of audio description.

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