Everything is different as the performing arts world feels its way back into being together and breathing the same air, but in a way that won’t infect and kill each other.
As everyone hopes to be headed toward a post-pandemic world, the question of accessibility, of finding a way to bring everyone—and not just select groups—together continues to be asked and answered in new ways.
A.B.L.E. Ensemble’s goal is to provide performing arts experiences for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. With an acronym standing for Artists Breaking Limits and Expectations, the ensemble had to think carefully about the needs of its participants this year, needs that they recognize have grown in intensity because of years of isolation.
This spring, they have four ensembles serving a total of 35 actors ages 16-52.
“Since this is the first time many of our actors have been together in person in over two years, we’re doing something a little different this spring,” says Katie Yohe, A.B.L.E.’s founder and artistic director. “We’re focusing our semester on rediscovering the joy of being together, playing games, and enjoying some time to play.”
Instead of picking a show and working toward producing it, they’re going to livestream their rehearsals May 22-24 and let audiences get a behind-the-scenes look at their process.
“Social situations take a lot of processing energy, and we all need to rebuild those muscles,” Yohe says. “I’m exhausted after a trip to the grocery store, let alone a two-hour rehearsal. I’m so glad we’ve been able to offer programming throughout the pandemic, but sitting in your Zoom square is definitely not the same as being up and in 3D.”
Seesaw Theatre produces multisensory theatrical experiences for small audiences, giving each audience member an “adventure guide” who plays with them throughout the performance. During the pandemic, it created virtual, sensory-based theater.
According to a letter on its website from artistic director Ilana Abusch and executive director Julia Hogan Laurenson, “Although we missed getting to interact with our audiences in person, a silver-lining we found in this virtual year was that our work became far more accessible, and we were able to serve far more audience members than we have in our normal, in-person years.”
Their tenth-anniversary 2021-2022 season includes three shows. Dates have not yet been announced for the spring show, Dino-Mite Dig.
Sampling of accessible spring shows:
By and for those with diverse abilities
Special Gifts Theatre presents Disney’s The Lion King Jr., 4/23-4/24, Walter R. Sundling Junior High School, 1100 Smith Street, Palatine, with virtual shows 5/5-6/5. It also offers Disney’s Moana Jr., now through April 24, virtual edition, specialgiftstheatre.org.
Tellin’ Tales Theatre, Divercity, 5/13-5/16, Greenhouse Theater Center; Teen Tales, 6/25-6/26, Loyola Park, tellintalestheatre.org.
Special access options
Goodman Theatre, Good Night, Oscar, 4/9 2 PM, audio description and touch tour; 4/15 8 PM, ASL interpreted; 4/16 2 PM, captioning; Relentless, 4/24 2 PM, audio description and touch tour;