We were on our way to a seminar about making mainstream performances friendly to Austism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) audiences and making performance for ASD audiences.
The seminar was organised by For Crying Out Loud – www. Fcoletc. – who are a most interesting organisation involved in producing all sorts of artist led projects all over the world – including the elastic band installation at AWESOME in Perth..... Check them out.
Anyway – FCOL have been involved in a partnership with an Italian Children’s Theatre company called TPO who work alot with interactive digital technologies (also very interesting – also have been to Australia quite extensively including the NT with INCITE arts www), for a number of years. In 2011 they were bringing out a work called “ DANCE PLEASE” . Because of the interactive nature of the work and the element of audience participation, FCOL had identified the potential of this work to be accessible to ASD audiences and so had created a team to pilot this possibility. This had been done in 2 stages the earlier stage taking place in 2009. The team included Slavka Ivanovka (theatre education consultant and mother of ASD son) and performance enabler – Spencer – (a performer/director who also works as a SEN Education Assistant). Slavka , along with ASD specialist Kirty Hoyle (ACCESS Manager at the Unicorn Theatre) created a special training day for the TPO technicians and performers about ASD children – their common triggers and behaviours and giving some indication as to what the performers could expect from an ASD audience. Spencer had worked with Slavka to prepare the students for their experience of the performance. This had involved Slavka creating visual stories for the show and theatre which could be used to orientate students. They also created a performance orientation session immediately prior to the show in which they took the students through the various sound and light cues/states that would be used during the show. The pilot involved 4 different groups of children with ASD. Each group was very different and the team experimented with leaving students in the performance environment after the orientation session and taking them out before bringing them in again for the show. Spencer’s role was to assist the students in the unfamiliar environment and to be a liaison between performers, students and carers, encouraging the carers to permit participation at the students own level and assisting to manage any challenging behaviours.
I was struck by the term – “Performance Enabler” and could envisage that term being useful to our work in OZ – imaginging that this could be a training we could develop for Education Assistants and/or others – as specific addition to their skill base and a recognition of their key role in facilitating student enjoyment of performance.
I was also struck by the fact – that the desire of a range of arts companies and venues to make theatre accessible to previously excluded audiences (ASD and pmld) is really gaining momentum in the Zeitgeist – however that even in the UK – the work is really only beginning – and that in London at least – apart from OILY – there was not much experience in this territory.
After the seminar there was an opportunity to play with TPO’s technology which was very inspiring. It was exactly about the cause and effect stuff that Sensorium Crew had earlier gotten excited about. Apparently it happens through the live filming of the camera. The camera and computer can be programmed to make different responses to different sound or movement cues that are generated by the audience or performers.
The seminar was chaired by Amber’s friend Kirsty Hoyle who was very warm and delighted to meet - she had tried to find us at the Unicorn but we had by then moved to the Smallwood Studios. Anyway she was most interested to meet us and talked about her interest to program work for pmld audiences – including international work – given also that OILY is not making a pmld show in 2012......
Another really cool manifestation of of our small world was that SLavka knows Rachael Riggs and Adam Bennet!!!! – She gave me her card and said to meet up and as it happens we ran in to her at the most excellent show at the Little Angel Theatre the next night!!!!!!!!