"Focusing on Abilities" by Karen Stallings
Imagine an evening out for enlightening theater – while it sounds inviting, it can be impossible for people with disabilities. For the mobility impaired, the theater may not be easily accessible, the hearing impaired might not understand the dialog and the visually impaired may not be able to navigate through the facility. But no more!
The Raleigh Ensemble Players Theater Company (REP) is excited to announce that it will open the doors wider to individuals with disabilities. Thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, REP will not only make the theater accessible for people with disabilities but also it will include them in the cast, crew, staff and its board of directors. Raleigh Ensemble Players are proud to be the only theater company in the state to receive such a grant.
“We hope to raise awareness of what people with disabilities can do in the arts and what the arts can do for all people including those with disabilities,” explains Gary Williams, Raleigh Ensemble Players Managing Director.
Some of the changes will include adding a ramp and Braille placards as well as redoing the bathrooms according to the Americans with Disabilities standards at the Artspace building in Raleigh, N.C. where the Raleigh Ensemble Players Theater is located. Other changes will be more dramatic.
“The final production of the season was LEBENSRAUM, and it was be shadow signed. The sign language actors mirrored the actions of the cast and were included in all aspects of the process,” adds Williams. And the next production, “THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD” will be in February and it will be feature actors will disabilities on stage.
The Developmental Disabilities grant will enable Raleigh Ensemble Players to hire a disabled community outreach director as well as an artist in – residence for two months. This will be an actor with a disability that will work directly with the disabled community outreach director to help pilot an educational outreach program for the community at large.
Already known for it’s provocative alternative theater, Raleigh Ensemble Players began expanding its reach to the disabled community when it hired a stage manager with a disability, Julia Leggett. Since then, Raleigh Ensemble Players has committed itself to becoming truly inclusive in its approach to theatrical production and performances. The Developmental Disabilities Council grant will now provide the resources to enhance that commitment.
“REP has already provided one fully accessible performance for each show of the season. The grant will help us continue this tradition. This performances will now be on Friday nights per the request from the disabled community,” says Williams.
In addition, individuals with disabilities can request Braille or large print of the performances programs. They can also ask for other special accommodations at its website ticket window, www.realtheater.org.
“We have worked diligently to be inclusive and have gained great insight from these experiences, but we see many more opportunities. This grant will enable to expand our community providing employment and educational opportunities to all segments of the community,” declares Williams. “Now we can create a fully integrated theater company that will act as a role model for other companies in the region and the nation.”
For information and ticket reservations, call (919) 832-9607 or e-mail Raleigh Ensemble Players at email@example.com. You can also make reservations by visiting Raleigh Ensemble Players online at www.realtheater.org.