Participants engage a variety of creative outlets.
But there are situations when working toward a performance can enhance the value of the applied theatre program. Such was the case with the young adult autism group I do theatre with here in the Upstate of SC. We had done games, role playing, interviewing and other theatre-based activities in our monthly meetings. We will continue to do these kinds of AT activities. But I sensed the challenge of preparing to perform would enhance our work together, and after 3 public performances last week my hunch was confirmed.
Our cast began devising Spectrum: An Evening of Theatre and Autism in early March, in weekly Saturday rehearsals. We began meeting for 2 hours and then stretched it to 3 as the performances approached. We worked together with 7 neuro-typical actors from an applied theatre class I was teaching in the spring semester. Pairing typical actors with actors on the spectrum was an essential component of our success.
I had the idea to use the song “On the Road Again” to unify what would obviously be a diverse program. Our scenic artists and designer took the song and encouraged the young adults on the spectrum to draw their impressions of being on the road with friends. Their drawings were projected on 16’ flats; they painted them the next week, and they became a scenic backdrop for the performances.
Play participants in rehearsal.
Like many applied theatre artists I continue to direct and produce audience-focused theatre. I also enjoy doing AT work with groups and I enjoy not worrying about that “opening night” deadline looming in the future. It’s easy to get a bit lazy, however, when that “opening night” deadline is not hanging over my head. So the addition of a performance dimension to the autism group here energized and focused me as well as the participants. It isn’t always appropriate to place a public performance on the minds of your group members, but when it is be courageous and expect courage from your group members and, if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll be rewarded for it!
Spectrum is a play co-produced by the Applied Theatre Center and the North Greenville University Department of Theatre and directed by Dale Savidge.