Crown Point the­ater sea­son set

Some stag­ings geared to­ward those with spe­cial needs

Post-Tribune - - Neighbors - BY DONNA KUHN Post-Tri­bune cor­re­spon­dent

“Big Ideas ... Up Close!” is the theme th for the Crown Point Com­mu­nity m The­atre’s 11th sea­son, and the th lineup fea­tures sev­eral well­known shows, in­clud­ing “The Odd Cou­ple” (fe­male ver­sion), Roald Dahl’s “Willy Wonka” and “Stop the World I Want to Get Off.”

But au­di­ences also may get to ex­pe­ri­ence some of these fa­mil­iar shows in en­tirely new ways thanks to a grant from the In­di­ana Arts Com­mis­sion.

A free pre­view of the 11th sea­son was held ear­lier this month at the the­ater. Au­di­ence mem­bers en­joyed hors d’oeu­vres and a cash bar be­fore watch­ing snip­pets of each show per­formed by board mem­bers and friends of the the­ater.

They also heard about the the­ater’s un­usual ven­ture into at­tract­ing peo­ple who nor­mally can’t at­tend the­atre per­for­mances.

“Spe­cial Needs Per­for­mances are op­por­tu­ni­ties for those with spe­cial needs to en­joy the the­ater in a safe, friendly en­vi­ron­ment de­signed for their needs,” said Becky Jas­coviak, of Val­paraiso, the the­ater’s sec­re­tary of min­utes for the 2014-15 sea­son.

Jas­coviak calls her­self the the­ater’s “de facto” mar­ket­ing and de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor and has co­or­di­nated the sea­son se­lec­tion process the past two years. She also has di­rected sev­eral shows there since 2008. Dur­ing the day, she is a grant writer for Kids Alive In­ter­na­tional in Val­paraiso.

Jas­coviak said a Broad­way the­atre staged an autis­tic-friendly show and re­ceived a lot of press, adding that if it were com­mon it wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be news­wor­thy. She was re­fer­ring to an Oc­to­ber 2011 per­for­mance of Dis­ney’s “The Lion King” at the Min­skoff The­atre, billed as the first autism­friendly per­for­mance in Broad­way his­tory.

It in­cor­po­rated a re­duc­tion of jar­ring sounds and strobe lights, as well as des­ig­nated quiet ar­eas in the lobby, staffed with autism ex­perts, which could be used, if needed, dur­ing the per­for­mance.

“I think there is a push to in­cor­po­rate more of this kind of pro­gram­ming as more re­search is done on how kids learn, as well as the ef­fects of play and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion on var­i­ous pop­u­la­tions,” ac­cord­ing to Jas­coviak.

“It is not com­mon for the­aters to of­fer these kinds of per­for­mances,” she said, “as they can be costly and re­quire some sig­nif­i­cant adap­ta­tions that not all the­aters or pro­duc­tions are able to make. We are pleased to have both a mu­sic therapist and a fam­ily with an autis­tic child rep­re­sented on our board.”

This isn’t a brand-new con­cept for the Crown Point Com­mu­nity The­atre, though. It pre­sented one per­for­mance of last sea­son’s “You’re a Good Man Char­lie Brown” for those on the autism spec­trum, and two per­for­mances last fall of “God­spell” were Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage-signed for the hear­ing-im­paired.

“Both were well-re­ceived, with about 20 peo­ple at­tend­ing the autism-friendly per­for­mance,” she said. “We had all the ac­tors and tech crew mem­bers at­tend a train­ing ses­sion to un­der­stand a bit about what the chil­dren ex­pe­ri­ence. The mu­sic was soft­ened, the aisle lights left on, and the ac­tors were en­cour­aged to in­ter­act with the stu­dents if any of them went on stage and talked with them, which none ended up do­ing.”

For “God­spell,” Jas­coviak said, an ASL in­ter­preter came to sev­eral re­hearsals to learn tim­ing and block­ing so she could “ac­cu­rately re­flect the way we were play­ing it and not just words on a page.”

Sim­i­lar spe­cial-needs per­for­mances will be of­fered this year, she said, as well as the ad­di­tion of ef­forts to reach out to men­tally and phys­i­cally chal­lenged adults and their care­givers.

All per­for­mances for those with spe­cial needs will be clearly la­beled on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s web­site, cpct. biz.

The 2014-15 sea­son also in­cludes “25th An­nual Put­nam County Spell­ing Bee,” “A Tuna Christ­mas,” “The Ugly Duck­ling,” “Anatomy of a Mur­der” per­formed at the his­toric Old Lake County Court­house, “Love and Shrimp” and “Freud’s Last Ses­sion.”

Per­for­mance dates, as well as au­di­tion an­nounce­ments, can be found on the the­ater’s web­site.

Jas­coviak said the new sea­son was planned with a fo­cus on pro­duc­ing well-known shows. The sea­son se­lec­tion com­mit­tee met first in Fe­bru­ary to dis­cuss sched­ul­ing, then direc­tors and show pro­pos­als were sought in March. In April, the direc­tors were in­vited to an­swer any ques­tions of the board, the mem­bers of which then com­pleted an ex­ten­sive sur­vey to pro­vide an an­a­lyt­i­cal ap­proach to the se­lec­tion.

Pro­pos­als were judged on sev­eral cri­te­ria, in­clud­ing the fit to the the­ater, all re­sources needed, as well as their fundrais­ing and “friend” -rais­ing abil­ity.

Once the sea­son lineup was se­lected, per­for­mance rights needed to be se­cured be­fore it was an­nounced.

| SUP­PLIED PHOTO

“Big Ideas ... Up Close!” is the theme for the Crown Point Com­mu­nity The­atre’s 11th sea­son.

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