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What it takes to live-caption the Tony Awards

Joshua Edwards has been live-captioning the Tonys since 2018. What was different about this unscripted year?

Joshua Edwards stationed in a work tent just outside the United Palace stage door, live-captioning the 2023 Tony Awards (Credit: Courtesy of Joshua Edwards)

Stenographer Joshua Edwards first captioned the Tony Awards in 2018. A vocal performance major at Vanderbilt University, Edwards graduated in 2003 and moved to New York City in 2008. But the realities of New York living set in quickly, and Edwards pivoted to becoming a court reporter. As he built his reputation in the courtroom, Edwards also began working for a captioning company called TotalCaption. “They got to know me and learned of my passion for the arts. They started giving me these jobs captioning plays and arts events,” said Edwards. “When they finally got to caption the Tony Awards, I guess I was their number-one pick.”

Since then, Edwards founded his own company, StenoCaption, which specializes in captioning for museum exhibits as well as university classes for students who are Deaf and hard of hearing. But Edwards continues to work for TotalCaption on the Tonys.

This year’s unscripted ceremony marked Edwards’ fifth Tonys and — what he says — was the most liberating of them all. “Ironically, this year was easier for me,” said Edwards. Every year, scripted or not, Edwards writes in real time, providing captions to the in-theater audience via the GalaPro app. Some of the Tonys captions are improvised each year. (You can’t see an acceptance speech in advance.) But commentary about presenters and the host’s introduction to the night, for example, is pre-written.

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