These can be quite difficult to prepare for as there is usually no relevant prep material available. This is my experience on how to find the most useful information about the discussion.
You will usually be sent a copy of the script. Although this is useful for the title of the play and author, and the character names, it is usually too voluminous to go through in full. (If you have Eclipse Dev version 5, it might be useful to run through the analysis tool to throw up any unusual names).
Your first port of call should be the theatre website, which will give you the names of the production team, especially the director and writer. It should give a list of the cast, their names and characters. There may be short bios on the director, writer and main cast members; look through these for previous major works, especially that they have done together. You may have to go to Wikipedia for this. Also the name of the production company is useful.
Next you should search for reviews of the play. The Independent and The Daily Telegraph websites are usually good for this. They will often give relevant influences, and give pointers on which cast members are the most important, and interesting things about the director and writer.
It is good planning to put in every cast member’s name as a speaker, plus the director and, and the artistic director of the theatre. However if you’re not sure, ANSWER or >> to signify a new speaker is fine. You will need CHAIR, and FLOOR or QUESTION for the questions from the audience.
You might find it useful to have a theatre/stage type job dictionary with 1-stroke short forms for words like performance, rehearsal, theatre and choreography. They often name-check major writers like Pinter, Chekhov and Shakespeare. You should be ready to fingerspell anything, with an entry for every letter, upper and lower case.
When you get to the theatre, you should be able to find out who is chairing the discussion, if not the cast members who will be speaking. You should check the running time, and if there’s an interval. Get a copy of the programme if possible as this will often have useful background information.
In a later blog post I will show the best setup for working through the Stagetext software, as it is possible to have the Auto-Brief window displayed and active as well as the Stagetext software.
Hope you found this helpful and please feel free to comment below!
Claire started her steno training at Smith Bernal (now DTI Global) in 1994, started working in court in 1995 and attained Accredited LiveNote Reporter status in 1996.
Since becoming freelance in 2004, she has broadened her competences to include all the areas where verbatim realtime reporting can be used.