How Our Autism-Inclusive Theatre Company Is Adapting to the Pandemic

The final day of the Next Stage Transitions Workshop at the Center for Applied Drama and Autism (CADA) is known as “The Sharing.” Sharing our work with friends and family can be a little less scary than performing for an invited audience; we make it a no-pressure event and run the class as usual. A drama class focused on individual growth through collaboration, each student’s unique abilities are incorporated into the final devised performance. At the end of class, everyone applauds and certificates of accomplishment are handed out to all.

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Later that same day, Theatre on the Spectrum (CADA’s performance wing) held a two-hour rehearsal for our upcoming production of “Along the Graveyard Path: A History of Disability,” which was to take place on April 18 at the University of Akron. This project started with a 2009 Akron Beacon-Journal article by Mark Price revealing hundreds of bodies underneath Schneider Park in West Akron. Located near the Summit County Infirmary, the park was once a countywide dumping ground for those who could not afford burial: the poor, the disabled, unclaimed infants, and immigrants.

The discovery inspired UA Anthropology Professors Tim Matney to map the unmarked graves with his class and Carolyn Behrman to begin working with both our youth and adult companies. With Carolyn’s help, the companies have researched local archives and collected oral histories from Akron’s disabled community, their family members, and caretakers to give voice to their experiences of invisibility, segregation, hope, and inclusion. With its original script by Theatre on the Spectrum actors and music by disability rights activist, Jeffrey Moyer, “Along the Graveyard Path” won the Knight Foundation’s 2019 Akron Arts Challenge and gained additional funding from the Ohio Arts Council’s ArtsNEXT grant program. Read more about the Center for Applied Drama and Austism…

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