Friday, May 26th, 2017 saw a Focus Day at the Cradle of Creativity on Inclusive International Arts – defined as Arts for, by and with people of all abilities. The day was a wonderful collection of different sessions highlighting the importance of making Theatre for Young Audiences inclusive for differently-abled young people.
Presentations on models of good practice were led by Kaitlin Jaskolski (South Africa), Larissa Probst (Germany), Theresa Frey (Germany), Petra Jeroma (Germany), Johanna Kraft (Germany), and Zelda Mycroft (South Africa) who each delved into their breadth of work for differently-abled youth.
We heard, for example, about German Theatre Group, BwieZack. Aiming for hearing impaired young people to no longer feel excluded from Theatre attendance, BwieZack created a performance that incorporates subtitles and sign language in order for it to be accessible to this demographic.
While the presenters represented different organisations, and targeted different populations around the world, they all spoke of how Theatre can open doors to support the needs of individuals with different and diverse abilities, as well as to educate others about the needs of differently abled youth.
In addition to this seminar, Karolina Zernyte (Lithuania) led a workshop on the Theatre of Senses. Despite much of her work not being created specifically for differently-abled young people, her practice remains very inclusive and mindful of audience members with different and diverse abilities.
Her workshop session allowed participants to discover some of the practical ways practitioners may work with differently-abled young people, through developing work that engages senses other than just sight and hearing. By immersing an audience in a deeply sensory experience, Zernyte encourages young people to live the performance with their whole being.
The following is an example of an exercise from the Theatre of Senses workshop. The objective of this exercise is to immerse a blindfolded participant in an experience of all senses, where they can create meaning out of an unknown object.
- Ask participants to form pairs, and stand together in a large circle.
- Place an object behind each pair. This can be anything from a bag of sand to a roll of aluminium foil.
- Person A is blindfolded, and Person B introduces the object to their partner.
- Person B may do this in any way they like. They may choose first to use the object to create a sound, or they may allow their partner to touch it straight away.
- Person A is encouraged to have fun in this exploration, play with the object as they see fit, and react naturally.
- After 3 minutes, each pair is asked to move to the object on their left and continue their exploration with this new object.
- Once they have completed the circle and have discovered each object in their own way, the pairs switch so that Person B is blindfolded and Person A leads.
- New objects are introduced into the circle, and Person B explores each object in the same way as before.