Young adults with disabilities bring Shakespearean dream to life

A group of young adults will get a chance to show off their creative talents this Thursday through Sunday, in an immersive theatre installation at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre's Al Green Theatre.

What Dream it Was is an immersive theatre installation inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream

Avi Roth is one of the participants in What Dream it Was. (Barry Smith/CBC)

A group of young adults will get a chance to show off their creative talents Thursday through Sunday, in an immersive theatre installation at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre's Al Green Theatre.

The show, called What Dream it Was, is inspired by Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. But attendees shouldn't expect a traditional Shakespearean performance — nor will they be stuck sitting in the audience. Instead, director Dan Watson said, they'll find themselves exploring a "theatrical playground."

Participants in What Dream it Was held a dress rehearsal Wednesday evening. (Barry Smith/CBC)

"So what that means is, you can actually enter right into the magical forest of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, and inside you'll encounter all kinds of magical creatures, and you can actually take part in activities like music-making and shadow puppetry," said Watson at a Thursday evening dress rehearsal.

Dan Watson, director of What Dream it Was, said the show will be 'very interactive' and 'very accessible.' (Barry Smith/CBC)

The experience is the creation of a group of 16 young adults with various disabilities.

The participants have been preparing for the show since last November, exploring their own interests as part of the creative process. Some are more interested in performance, said Watson, while others have chosen roles in visual art or production.

"We try to find a way that everybody has a role and everybody has something to contribute," he said.

Supporting young adults with disabilities

The project was inspired by a growing recognition that young adults with disabilities face a gap in services and social programs, underscored by a report from Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé last August.

"I think there's a lot of programming and a lot of awareness and a lot of support for children with disabilities," said Liviya Mendelsohn, manager of accessibility and inclusion with the Miles Nadal JCC.

"But as they age, and as people who identify with disability become 18, there's less and less."

The goal of What Dream it Was, said Mendelsohn, is to "provide those opportunities for people to participate, to contribute, to realize their visions and their goals."

Seeing the show

Audience members will be able to wear costumes, participate in musical performances with professional musicians, and make their own potions and lanterns.

"You can expect a lot of surprises," said participant Ken Harrower, who will be helping to guide guests through the show. "I'm not going to give it away until tomorrow."

Participant Ken Harrower says the show's audience can expect a lot of surprises. (Barry Smith/CBC)

Tickets to What Dream it Was are available on the Ahuri Theatre website, or by donation at the door. Student matinees on Thursday are already sold out, but other shows will be held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The event is appropriate for people of all ages and abilities, according to Ahuri Theatre, and ASL interpretation and attendant care will be available.