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A special activity area at the Theatre Development Fund-sponsored performance of "Elf."

Letters to the Editor July/August 2013

Readers wrote in to applaud accessibility in the theatre and the work of Cynthia Cohen.

I Remember Banquo
I was surprised and delighted by your extensive article on accessibility in theatre (“The Circle of Inclusion,” May/June ’13)! I worked for three years with artists with developmental disabilities (including in a theatre company) in Albuquerque, N.M., and it altered my perspective forever about who is allowed to participate in theatre, either as an audience member or performer. One of my fondest memories (among many) is of a young man with autism with whom I did respite care (he was also an actor in our multi-ability company). We went to see a production of Macbeth together—the production was great, but the best part was listening to him whisper all the lines along with the actors. We had only a few months before we read the play in our Shakespeare class, and it was one of his favorites. Thanks for bringing this issue to the fore!

Susan Stroupe
Baltimore, Md.
Princeton, NJ

Doors Wide Open
As artistic director of McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., I was thrilled to read “The Circle of Inclusion” in May/June ’13. Inspired by what TDF has done to make Broadway shows more accessible, McCarter presented its first-ever autism-friendly performance in May, and we can attest to Lisa Carling’s assertion that the work that has been done on Broadway can be easily replicated. In fact, the staff of TDF was an incredible resource to McCarter as we spent the better part of the year planning this special event. A confluence of other circumstances helped make this idea a reality, including finding a community partner (Eden Autism Institute) and producing a show that would be appropriate for an audience of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. The final show of our 2012–13 season, Into the Woods, proved to be an excellent fit. Not only were the familiar characters and beautiful music engaging to patrons, but the show’s energetic company (Fiasco Theater) was open to the idea and enthused about making their production accessible to a larger audience. In addition to muting some abrupt sound and lighting cues, we offered a host of amenities to make the overall theatregoing experience more comfortable in a nonjudgmental environment.

This performance was a natural addition to our access program, which consists of a variety of services intended to make our organization as inclusive as possible. Our autism-friendly performance of Into the Woods was a definite highlight of the season and an experience I will not soon forget.

Emily Mann, Artistic Director and Resident Playwright
McCarter Theatre Center

Conflict Resolution
Thank you for Simi Horwitz’s well-written article about Cynthia Cohen (“First, Peace,” May/June ’13). As Cohen emphasizes, coverage of this thoughtful, creative and diverse work, which encourages global peace in various ways, is essential for promoting innovative strategies to deal with conflict in a generative way. Thanks to TCG for leading the way.

Allison Lund
Somerville, Mass.

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