Using the transformative and inventive world of Aesop’s Fables, Audiences Unlimited and Fort Wayne Youtheatre have created a unique theatrical experience—both for the young neurodivergent and neurotypical artists, as well as the audience itself.
Funded in part through grants from the AWS Foundation and The James Foundation, “The Neurodiversity Project: The Wonderful World of Aesop” features pairs of middle and high school neurotypical and neurodivergent youth working together to present this dramatic production.
“This project is all about creating opportunities for actors who don’t normally get to participate in theater,” said Morgan Montgomery, Director of Marketing/Office Administrator at Fort Wayne Youtheatre, who is directing the performance. “We are teaching the basics of acting as well as ways to come together as a group.”
Working side-by-side for three months, this company of neurodiverse and neurotypical youth will explore their creative talents and collaborate with others to put together the show. The production will not only entertain but will also demonstrate the value of the arts for all by enhancing social interaction, communication skills, self-confidence, and self-esteem.
“Through this performance,” said Todd Espeland, Executive/Artistic Director, “we’re closing the gap of accessibility to the theater experience. It’s all about normalizing the arts for everyone, because everyone has the capacity for creativity.”
According to Anna Ross, Executive Director, Audiences Unlimited, “the project’s goal is to teach theater basics in the process of putting together a short show for these students, and to do it in a way that is inclusive of ability levels and strengths. In American society, these two groups (neurodivergent and neurotypical) are often separated at all levels of society. We believe bringing them together at a formative age will benefit both groups.”
The artists aren’t the only ones to benefit from this new approach to theater. “Neurodivergent individuals experience sensory processing issues,” said Montgomery. “Too much stimulation can make the brain short circuit. We’re working that knowledge into our production, making sure the lights don’t change too fast and the sound isn’t too loud.” In addition, the crew is providing a safe space for actors and audience members to take a break if necessary.
Public performances will be held at Parkview Physicians Group ArtsLab Theatre at Arts Campus Fort Wayne, located at 300 E. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802. Show times are as follows:
· April 7, 2023 @ 7 p.m.
· April 8, 2023 @ 2 p.m. & 4 p.m.
· April 9, 2023 @ 2 p.m.
For more information about the project or to purchase tickets for this groundbreaking performance, visit www.fortwayneyoutheatre.org/aesops-fables.
Fort Wayne Youtheatre was founded in 1934 for the purpose of developing poise, better diction, and self-esteem for children through dramatic instruction. For over three quarters of a century, Youtheatre has produced classes, camps, and theatrical productions for the artists and audiences of northeast Indiana. As the fifth oldest active children’s theatre in the nation, Youtheatre is dedicated to its mission to “educate, engage and entertain” through quality theatrical experiences. To learn more, visit www.fortwayneyoutheatre.org.
Audiences Unlimited (AUI) is celebrating its 50th year of enriching lives, providing access by reaching often-forgotten audiences and creators. AUI serves Allen, DeKalb, Noble, LaGrange, and Steuben counties with over 115 performances each month. In addition, through collaborative relationships with long-term care facilities, adult day academies, and community partners, AUI reaches over 8,500 individuals with diverse needs and abilities each year. To learn more, visit audiencesunlimited.org.