London

Reimagining live theatre: How a local production is making a performance more accessible

A community theatre production company is making the theatre experience more accessible in an effort to create the opportunity for everyone to enjoy the theatre's magic.

Musical Theatre Productions staging a sensory-friendly version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

George McLeary plays titular character Joeseph. During the relaxed performance the house lights will be left on, the theatrical lighting and sound effects will be reduced, two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be on site and audience noise is welcome. (Jason Plant/ Submitted by Musical Theatre Productions)

A community theatre production company is reimagining the theatre experience to create the opportunity for everyone to enjoy live theatre's magic.

Musical Theatre Productions (MTP) is offering a relaxed performance of their upcoming show, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The experience is designed to be accessible and sensory-friendly.

During this performance, the house lights will be kept on, the theatrical lighting and sound effects will be reduced, two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters will be on-site, and audience noise is welcomed.

"We're creating a space that is really accessible to more people who traditionally wouldn't be able to see a typical theatre production," said Andrew Kaszowski, the show's producer, adding the experience was designed thinking of people with special needs, including those with autism, those who are hard of hearing or have mobility issues, as well as those with young babies. 

Nicola Klein and Kate Deman play the Narrators. In the bottomr, from left to right: Chloe Morehouse, Vaughan Richardson, Marlow Malone, Shivani Rai, Marina Krieck and Arisa Golder. (Jason Plant/ Submitted by Musical Theatre Productions)

"This is something that we felt was really important because the story of Joseph is really one of belonging and acceptance, and we want it to be inclusive and welcoming to as many Londoners as possible." 

"As someone who depends on a hearing device in their day-to-day life, I appreciate this production's dedication to accessibility," said cast member Lucas McHugh.

While the nature of a live theatre production does not allow for a completely sensory-friendly experience, Kaszowski said they're making their best effort to ensure everyone can attend.

"With certain elements of theatre production, like lighting and effects, it may be impossible to pull off for every production, but it's really important that inclusivity and accessibility is thought about very importantly in the design and the offerings that are brought to the stage, just as much as the content," he said. 

Kaszowski said that while it may be challenging — they needed sponsorship to be able to offer ASL interpretation — the theatre group hopes this will become the new standard in productions. 

Years in the making 

Initially set to premiere in March 2020, the production was cancelled just two weeks before opening night due to the ongoing pandemic.

The beloved musical comedy that spreads messages of staying true to oneself and persevering through adversities will count with performances from 29 local performers. 

Kaszowski said it's exhilarating to finally get the production on stage. 

"It's going to be a great show," he said. "There was a little bit of downtime where we had a little uncertainty of the real depth of the pandemic and if we could possibly do this ... so, we're very grateful." 

The beloved production that tells the Old Testament tale of staying true to one’s dreams to overcome any obstacle is coming to the Grand Theatre's Auburn Stage from May 20 to 29. (Jason Plant/ Submitted by Musical Theatre Productions)

"We really want to see the sense of community coming together and celebrating the gift of live theatre, which is such an uplifting experience.

There's a line from one of the songs, A Dream Will Do, and it really speaks to Joseph holding on to his dream, but it also speaks to our theatre community and the audience community in London not giving up on live theatre," Kaszowski said. 

MTP's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Where: Grand Theatre's Auburn Stage

When: Friday, May 20, 2022 -  Sunday, May 29, 2022

Relaxed performance: Sunday, May 22, 2022 at 1:30 p.m. 

Tickets are available at mtplondon.ca or through the Grand Theater box office. 

 

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