In a guest post, ArtStream parent, Teri Kachur reflects on her daughter joining an ArtStream Theatre Company
The ArtStream Theatre Company is truly an inclusive opportunity.
Not only is my daughter Julia making friends, but they are also creating something together. And it’s not a matter of, “Let’s do Aladdin or Peter Pan,” it’s, “Let’s create something that means something to us.”
My daughter uses augmentative assistive communication. She’s nonverbal, but she’s used a communication device for about 15 years. And we’ve always found a way for her to participate in theatre and use her device.
As the other actors were developing their characters, there was a lot of chaos in the room. It’s fun chaos, but it can be overwhelming. Sally (Julia’s Director) sensed that she was getting anxious, so she pointed to her said, “Julia, who do you want to be in this play?”
Through her device, Julia said, “Octopus.” And I knew exactly where this was coming from because Julia loves The Little Mermaid.
Sally didn’t even hesitate. She said, “Okay, Octopus…what color do you want?”
And all of a sudden, Julia was back to being engaged with the group.
And you know, I had the opportunity to kind of sit back and watch that happen. I didn’t have to intervene for my daughter or advocate for her because Sally took the time to connect with her. And she connects at that level with each of Julia’s peers. She really and truly treats them with a lot of respect, each individual in there – parents, students – Sally treats every single one of them with respect. That’s where the inclusiveness really comes from.
Julia comes to rehearsals with a careworker and we pitched the idea of integrating the careworker into the musical. She was so thrilled at the idea! She said, “Oh my gosh, yes! I absolutely want to do this with Julia. I love it! I think this is going to be great.”
So Julia plays Emperess Octavia, an octopus. All of her lines are programmed into her iPad. The careworker holds her iPad for her – we’re going to turn it into a scroll-like prop – and she holds it so Julia can access it to speak her lines. The octopus costume is for Julia and the careworker together. It’s one big costume so that their two arms would be four arms and together they would make up the octopus.
It’s all these organic opportunities and ideas that support each of our characters as individuals. It truly is a person-directed program. Everyone’s voices get heard.
-ArtStream Parent, Teri Kachur