QUEENS, N.Y.: Queens Theatre has established a “Theatre for All” initiative to make its programming and theatre spaces more accessible to both audiences and theatre professionals. With $150,000 in support from the New York Community Trust, Queens Theatre will dedicate more than $500,000 for the initiative. The company has also hired Gregg Mozgala as its director of inclusion.
“The guiding principle for Theatre For All is this: it all has to happen, at the same time,” said Taryn Sacramone, executive director of Queens Theatre in a statement. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we have middle school children participate in our education programs, then fail to provide the accessibility services they need to enjoy performances at our theatre? How can we invite community members as audience members, then fail to represent disabled people on stage? What can we do to create opportunities for the disabled actors who take part in our professional training program – where are the roles for them? Asking ourselves those questions and more reveal the areas where far more work needs to be done in the performing arts industry. At Queens Theatre, we’ve challenged ourselves to learn and to press for change in all areas that we work.”
Queens Theatre will offer a free two-week training program for early career Deaf and disabled actors. The workshops will focus on auditioning, acting, improv, musical theatre, voice and movement, and will culminate with an industry showcase.
The company will also present “Theatre for All” short play readings. The plays will be written by writers with disabilities, or will feature a character with a physical or mental disability. The program will also include a new work by a commissioned writer. The company will offer theatre artists the opportunity to work behind the scenes in various capacities.
For audiences, the company will provide audio-described performances, large print and Braille programs, headsets for the Deaf, ASL interpretation, sensory-relaxed performance, and inclusive theatrical experiences welcoming to individuals with neuro-diverse needs.
“It’s good that we’re seeing more disabled actors onstage and that they are winning major awards, but there is so much more to do,” said Mozgala in a statement. “Representation matters. Queens Theatre is thankful to everyone who works to make the cultural sector more accessible (programmatically, structurally, economically) to all. “