All of us at Inclusive Theater of WNY have been enjoying a productive and creative year thus far. We’ve offered an Improv class (August 2017), saw an expansion in year 3 of writing group, held a first reading of our Fall 2018 play, and participated in two Service Learning projects with students from Buffalo State College.
We have gained tremendous momentum and excitement is building as we leave winter behind and sail into Spring preparing to stage our Fall 2018 play. This is what we’ve been working towards since our founding three years ago! We got our feet wet with classes, weekend playwriting, set making/performance events and now we are ready for DOWNTOWN!
When we started, some people–ok more than some–didn’t think it was possible to have a truly inclusive theater company. But we have proved them wrong. Not only have our acting and improv classes been enjoyed by a neurologically, physically, racially, intellectually, socially and educationally diverse group of people, but we observed measurable and meaningful changes in the people who attended our programs, particuarly in their beliefs, attitudes, and levels of confidence and skills.
People with no prior experience in theater found a non-threatening, welcoming atmosphere and many came back to attend other classes and/or our once a week writing group. One young man who had just graduated from Buffalo State College who had never acted before found he had a flair for Improv, much to his–and our–amazement. He was one of the quietest people in our writing group and classes. It was in Improv that we all discovered he was in fact hilarious and spontaneous!
Several young people on the Autism spectrum who started out extremely wary became more and more assured, learned new boundaries and behaviors and three years later the growth in each of them is nothing short of completely gratifying. One of the young men “on the spectrum” not only understands sarcasm now but engages in it, is able to tolerate a bit of good natured teasing and can dish it out, too, to our–and his–great amusement. And he too has discovered a previously untapped talent for improv and the spontaneity it requires. To see that kind of growth in him over three years–well, it is just ONE of the things we set out to do!
One woman with previous acting experience who attended a series of acting classes told us she had never met anyone with a developmental disability, and was amazed to learn about aspects of their lives. Now she sees the people and not the disability and realizes that people are people and that most want the same things: To be accepted for who they are, as they are, and to have an equitable opportunity to pursue happiness.
One Buffalo State student remarked that she never realized people with developmental disabilities could go on dates! Especially if they used a wheelchair. But, she said her experience with our group taught her that people who are experiencing disability have lives, dreams, and desires just like everyone else. BINGO!
In addition to all this, our actors and writers attended professional theater productions in Buffalo, several for the very first time! We saw Aleks Malejs in her incredible performance of “GROUNDED” (for which she was given 2017s ARTIE AWARD for OUTSTANDING ACTOR in a play) at The Kavinoky Theatre. And just last evening several of us from writing group and acting classes attended The Foreigner, also at The Kavinoky Theatre, which not only included Aleks Malejs but also an entire cast of some of Buffalo’s best actors. (Get your tickets NOW! We all agreed this one is not-to-be-missed and will sell out fast!)
As we head into the Summer of 2018 we will be in the process of obtaining non-profit status and holding auditions and rehearsals for our Fall play which will be at the Alleyway Theater in October.
We have a part for YOU to play too! To keep all this going, we need your financial support.
Up until now, we’ve held fundraisers, asked for (OK begged) for donations and all money we raised went directly to offering our participants the theater experiences we’ve described, including paying professional acting teachers to lead our classes. Aimee Levesque and Marilyn Erentsen-Scott have shouldered the administrative costs so that ALL donations could go towards giving everyone the very best theater experiences we could offer.
But the rubber really meeting the road now. We’re going for 501(c)(3) status and we NEED your support to keep our classes and our momentum going as we meet the fee requirements for that! Also, we are staging our first full length play and that also involves expenses we need to meet.
Non-profit status will help us gain access to corporate sponsorships, as well as government and private grants, and that will enable us to build some really life changing experiences for even more individuals, many of whom, for one reason or another, didn’t have or weren’t given access to before.
We’ve done the preparation. We saw our hypothesis through for the past 3 and a half years, and we’ve PROVED this idea–FULL INCLUSION BENEFITS EVERYONE–works! It CAN be done! People rise to the challenge! With a positive environment, the right amount of support, gentle guidance, understanding and reasonable accommodations, people GROW into what they want to be, what they were MEANT to be!
And now, we have a role for YOU to play!
It’s Spring–Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Graduation–all are opportunities for gift-giving that gives TWICE. Click the ITOWNY Fundraiser/Bravelets link at the top of this post and you will be taken to our Bravelets.com Fund-raiser page. By purchasing a “Bravelet” through this link: click here, you will be giving a memorable–and meaningful–gift, and 25% of your purchase will go towards supporting Inclusive Theater of WNY.
We are humbly but emphatically asking you to consider supporting our cause and our passion: FULL INCLUSION IN THE ARTS! Please make it your cause, too. WHY? Because FULL INCLUSION BENEFITS EVERYONE! Help us to create a more loving and peaceful world.
We wish you a wonderful, relaxing and safe summer! Look for us at INFRINGEMENT in August (keep checking this site for upcoming events), and we look forward to entertaining you this Fall at the Alleyway Theater!