Access Lab & Library

Access Lab & Library (ALL) approaches access as a temporary, collectively-held space, as an experimental field, and as a platform for generosity.

We are Fayen d’Evie, Lloyd Mst and Jon Tjhia. Our lab offers iterative prototyping of inter/sensory access innovations through performance, exhibition and publication collaborations. Our partners are artists, collectives and commissioning organisations.
Our library will share case studies and guides to artist-led access strategies — and, we hope, grow to offer a lending system for access equipment, starting with Naarm/Melbourne and regional Victoria.

We’re in pursuit of access beyond baseline compliance; access that aligns with individual and collective ethics and distinctive creative practices.

… more to come, soon …

We work from the unceded sovereign lands, waters and skies of Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Jaara Country, in the south-east corner of so-called Australia.

Audiodescribing ~~~~~“…derelict in uncharted space…”

Welcome, and thanks!

Firstly, thanks for being here and joining us on this experimental foray. We’re grateful to have your company and looking forward to what you bring simply by joining us for it. 

This page is intended as a living reference for describers ahead of, and during, rehearsals and shows; we’ll keep updating it as we go. Some of you have training and some of you don’t; our intention and invitation is for all describers to approach the role as an opportunity to begin as new.

We understand many of you will have questions and seek guidance on how to approach this particular performance, and we are here to help you feel supported and encouraged in your expression. So, on this page you’ll find simple guidance and a few logistical pointers too.




Ethos


Our approach to access is as a temporary, collectively-held space, as an experimental field, and as a platform for generosity.

As audiodescribers for this show, we are offering a polyphonic point of access – one among many – for audiences in the room as well as those listening later during the radio performance season. The audiodescribers occupy an interesting position, neither fully audience nor performer but a conduit for both. 

Primarily, you are representing your own point of view – what you see and feel and experience in the room, from the place in which you stand, in the state of mind you’re in, as well as in a broader sense. One particular audiodescriber on one particular night. 

We wish to impose as little as possible on audiodescribers, and to let their own ways of being and seeing and speaking be expressed in each performance. This is a practise of permission-giving.


What to bring


If you have them, please bring a pair of wired earphones/earbuds – the kind you’d plug into a phone or mp3 player. We have some available if you can’t bring any. We prefer this style because it’s easy to leave them in one ear and listen to the sound of the show in the other.

You can wear anything that’s comfortable and won’t draw excessive distraction as you move around the room (ie. this outfit is for another time). If you have a show t-shirt, you can wear that!


Before and after each show


Before each show, attend the audiodescribers briefing, which you should have received timings for. 

Our aim in briefings is to make sure all audiodescribers know what to do, are aware of various cues to communicate with each other – a movement language of its own – and are able to test equipment before audience members enter the studio with their devices. Please try to be on time and to stay focussed so we have ample time to do this!

In addition to covering any changes from show to show, checking in with any audiodescribers’ access needs and discussing comings and goings of describers, we’ll complete the following steps together:

  • Switch your phone to silent or flight mode
  • Collect a single glove for your dominant mic-holding hand (these are poly-cotton-rayon blend, a solid woven texture, and we have medium and large sizes)
  • Collect an in-ear monitoring receiver (bodypack for you to remotely listen to the descriptions) and ensure you have earbuds
  • Place a fresh pair of AA batteries into your receiver and check it’s working (turn the volume knob to switch the receiver on)
  • Practice setting your volume to a comfortable level – loud enough to hear each other clearly, but soft enough to encourage you to speak clearly (and not only at a whisper)
  • Practice microphone positioning – slightly away from the mouth (or to the side) to avoid popping
  • Review physical cues/choreography for describers
  • Record your name (for the radio season)

The person organising the briefing (likely Jon or Lorena) will also organise the microphones and backup kit:
  • Place fresh AA batteries into the AD mic and spare AD mic
  • Test the primary mic
  • Ensure the AD backup bag has the spare mic and spare batteries inside

Finally, the entire AD team will run through operating their devices and check they’re working before audiences begin to collect their audiodescription kits.

Gloves awaiting their next show
Batteries in the photocopy room
Microphones, monitors, gloves and spare earbuds (the receiver sets on the left, in road cases, are for audience members)
After each show, please:

  • Remove the AA batteries from your receiver (and the microphones) and place them in chargers in the photocopy room
  • Return receivers and microphones to their station in the Chunky Move office
  • If you are describing multiple shows, label your glove (and put any provided earbuds inside them if you’ve been given them) and leave them as shown; after your last show, your glove can follow you home 🥲


Introducing each show


A different audiodescriber will be nominated for each performance, to describe the scene and feeling in the room and the audience generally, to set the scene.


Describing characters/performers


There are four people live on stage (and one on video) during the show, and they can be identified and referred to as follows:

  • Fayen (she/her)
  • Luke (he/him)
  • Benjamin (he/him), appearing in drag as Miranda (she/her)
  • Rebecca (she/her), composer/sound artist

  • On screen: Georgina (she/her)


Left to right: Benjamin as Miranda, Luke, Fayen and Rebecca (credit: Tiffany Garvie)

Additional voices in the show are Sheri (during the introduction; she/her) and Alex (the movement score later in the show; they/them), but as they’re not ‘appearing’ you may not need to refer to them.

If you happen to follow us on Instagram, you may be carrying various insights into the processes or actions taking place in the performance. Whether you do or don’t, just describe how you relate to what you see with what you know.


Cues, narrative, meanings and references


This performance has its roots in ‘Is there in truth no beauty?’, an episode from the original Star Trek series. It also draws on ‘Loud as a whisper’, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. (No doubt it also draws on many other things from the artists’ lives, other works, and beyond.) 

If you’re familiar with either – great! Feel free to weave anything you associate with or recognise from those. There is no expectation that you will be able to communicate a specific plot or meaning or any literal narrative cues. And there are no expectations to hide or show any particular knowledge here. Say what you see, and what it means and feels like to you!


Pace, timing, tone and movement


Speak in whatever pace, timing and tone feels true, and feel free to modulate it. Be mindful of your volume; the audiodescription should be relatively imperceptible to people in the room who aren’t wearing a headset – a hushed murmur – and not distracting for performers (who rely on sound cues in the show).

If a description comes to you late, or an image or thought or feeling comes back to you, feel free to speak it when it does. If you remember it, you’re seeing it in your mind. That happens at different paces for different people and we make no assumptions.

We do invite audiences to move around the stage during the show, and encourage describers to do the same. You’ll see things very differently depending on where you are. Be mindful of others as you move around.

If you think of something in another language, go ahead – just add some short explanation, translation or context for English users around it.


When to describe


Even in quiet or still sections of the performance, or sections wherein there is a voice being played in the room, listeners need to know what is happening or what can be seen from your place in the room. There are various different moments in the show and we would like listeners to be able to ‘see’ those. 

You may of course leave space for the voice to be listened to, or leave space in general. But, so you know, when we’re mixing the radio season, we’ll be able to adjust or spatialise voices so they’re complementary. Listeners in the room who find the description overbearing or distracting can adjust their volumes to tune into or out of this layer.


Key gestures between audiodescribers


Over the past few weeks we’ve developed some simple gestures to signal changes and intentions within the audiodescribing team. Here’s a quick overview. We’ll go over these as much as possible in briefings – and bear in mind some may be subject to change (the season is an exercise in reflexivity)!

Some of these relate to rotation among the audiodescription team throughout a given show. There are three describers at once, but up to six present for each show, so you’ll rotate in and out of the active trio potentially up to a few times within a performance. (If you’re not actively describing but you are part of the wider team that night, try to stay near the three, even if a few metres away.)

Standing formation: shoulder to shoulder, turned slightly in
Another describer would like to tag in: raise hand at edge of group
Swap out: raise your hand to acknowledge and offer a swap
Complete the swap: remember to hand over your wireless receiver as you go
If the central describer needs a break, they will point the microphone out and away from themselves (to be relieved by one of the team)
Technical issue with equipment: central describer will turn around and Lorena/Jon will bring spares kit to swap microphone/receiver


Sharing the microphone


We have developed simple choreography for turn-taking, subject to change! Guest audiodescribers will be positioned around a central describer in a group of three at a time. You can rely on the person in the centre to hold the microphone and anchor the group if needed.

Everyone in the active group of three describers will need to have an in-ear monitor in order to hear one another, so if you swap with someone, ensure you swap that too.

Request the microphone: gently tap the describer beside you on the shoulder
The describer with the microphone will hand it on when ready
Now you have it! You may tap again to initiate a return, or simply hand it back
If you wish to say just one phrase or sentence, cup your hands toward the person with the microphone …
… and when they’re ready, they’ll hold it out for you to speak into

If you would like to take the microphone, tap the person beside you on their shoulder to request it – if the person furthest from you is holding it, the central person will pass your tap along (and vice versa).

If you’re tapped, finish what you are saying and hand the microphone over only once you are ready.

If you would like to return the microphone, you may tap the person beside you on the shoulder to initiate the exchange, or simply hand it back.

If you have only a brief word or phrase to add, and the microphone is beside you, cup your hands toward the microphone to indicate that you would like to lean in and speak briefly. You can communicate here naturally with nods.


I’m nervous!


Hey, that’s natural. Here’s a prompt for you, going in: just try to focus on describing one particular thing. Perhaps you’ll choose the temperature of light in the room, or what the air feels like. Lean in, start with that and see if anything else comes. If not, it’s alright!


Technical issues


If a microphone or headset are not working during a performance, turn away from the stage and Lorena or Jon will assist you. (One of them will be carrying a bag containing a spare microphone and batteries.)


Auslan


If you know Auslan – if you’re truly translating what you see – you can pepper that into your descriptions. If you don’t, that’s fine – you bring your own subjectivity and knowledge into the description and aren’t expected to memorise translations. We ask that you don’t describe any Auslan interpreters working at the shows.


Early demonstration of captioning styles for the show, by Lloyd Mst


Captions


During the show, there are multiple levels of captions – pre-recorded caption videos on large TV screens above the stage, and smaller projects at ground level showing live captions. As these are part of what you might see, you’re welcome to read some of them, but encouraged to do so with their aesthetics in mind too – their density, speed, colours, typography, feeling. If in doubt: what’s your vibe?


Other things to note


  • Especially at the beginning of each performance, you may describe the general feeling of the audience, but please don’t describe specific individuals – they haven’t given us consent to do so
  • Where possible, please try to avoid the language of measurement – dimensions, angles, volumes
  • Try to avoid drinking too much coffee before a show! Your voice will sound better if you’ve been well hydrated in days – not only hours – ahead of speaking, and an apple is always a great refresher


Recording


Your audiodescription (alongside others) will be recorded during each performance, and may be recorded during rehearsals too. If you have any concerns, contact us as soon as possible. (We may of course edit anything that undermines the trust and expectations of audiences, performers and their communities.)


Sharing the show


In addition to listings on Melbourne Fringe and Chunky Move websites and social media, we’re sharing background and updates on the show through @accesslabandlibrary on Instagram. Find us there if you’d like to!


Getting there


New to visiting Chunky Move? There are directions here.


Support


If you’re feeling anxious or unwell, you may excuse yourself at any time. There is a quiet room opposite the performance space and the doors to the theatre will remain open throughout the show.

Any other questions or concerns?

Contact Jon Tjhia – by phone/text/Signal on 0419 820 422, or by email at jon@paperradio.net.

For administrative enquiries, contact Kristina Arnott, program producer at Chunky Move, at kristina@chunkymove.com.au.