Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Performances You can Feel and Touch, Theatre Organizations Have Impact with Special Populations and Public

Two examples today of innovative theatre organizations working for change with special populations.

We heard from IJCAIP subscriber, David Wiener, Writer-in-residence for The San Diego Shakespeare Society. The San Diego Shakespeare Society seeks to inspire life-long learning by furthering the public's understanding and enjoyment of the works of William Shakespeare.

Wiener described a project which took place in 2008. The San Diego Shakespeare Society presented a pilot event for special audiences called "The Shakespeare Prescription” presenting a series of shows
written by David Wiener, and directed by Artistic Director, Vanessa Dinning. A special show was designed for the visually-impaired and the blind which was attended by approximately 60 people. An improvised stage was created in the cafeteria of The Braille Institute of San Diego and the show opened with a "feel-and-tell" segment devised by Dinning, where props, hats, and costume-pieces from Shakespeare productions were passed around the audience and described by the actors who answered questions followed by a one-hour performance of Shakespeare excerpts.

“ I write one-hour scripts based on Shakespeare,” says David Wiener, "generally focusing on some aspect of his work or the Elizabethan world. The San Diego Shakespeare Society can then use these in just about any setting, large or small, indoors or out, usually for education, outreach, or special events. The biggest event each year for the organization is our annual Student Shakespeare Festival, which now requires six portable stages in San Diego’s Balboa Park. The shows I write are smaller scale, using just a handful of actors.”

Another theatre is making international news with a highly successful deaf blind theatre in Tel Aviv.

The theatre organization called Nalaga’at (Do Touch) strives to provide the deaf- blind population (i.e. persons who are both deaf and blind) of Israel the opportunity to achieve artistic expression, to advance the needs and aspirations of this neglected special needs group, and to create awareness and acceptance of the deaf-blind in Israeli society at large.

The "Nalaga’at" Center is located at the Jaffa port in Tel Aviv and was founded by the "Nalaga’at" non-profit organization. It is comprised of the "Nalaga’at" Theater, home to the Deaf-blind Acting Ensemble; Café Kapish, and BlackOut, the pitch-black restaurant with its staff of blind waiters. The "Nalaga’at" Center currently employs some 70 people, most of whom are deaf, blind or deaf-blind.

We would like to share this Youtube video excerpt below, a news report with behind the scenes footage of the Nalaga’at theatre in action.