Crown Point theater season set
Some stagings geared toward those with special needs
“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.
“Big Ideas ... Up Close!” is the theme for the Crown Point Community Theatre’s 11th season.