(Re)Discovering Story and Voice: The Adaptive Community Theatre Project
The Adaptive Community Theatre Project (ACTP) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) served to honor the voices and stories of community members with aphasia and other acquired neurocognitive disabilities, while combatting the isolation and depression often felt by this demographic. This paper will explore the ways in which the pilot year programming of ACTP evolved over time, due in part to the primary author’s perceived disinterest of the neuroatypical participants. Though initially the neuroatypical participants expressed interest in the project, erratic rehearsal attendance, transportation issues, cognitive fatigue, and stage fright presented challenges for the participants and created obstacles to the theatre process. This led to multiple modifications, including shifting from an ensemble-based mixed-ability devising model to an ethnographic model, and shifting from a full performance to a staged reading and community discussion.
This paper offers an overview of the ACTP and the challenges that led to multiple structural revisions throughout the development of the project. Written from the perspective of the ACTP artistic director, a reflection and analysis on the project’s pilot year concludes with a proposed model for successful community-based theatre work with participants with acquired neurocognitive disabilities and neurotypical volunteers. This paper asks: What are the best practices for creating theatre with/for participants with neurological/neurocognitive deficits? What tensions in objectives, communication, and access arise when a team of neurotypical individuals creates artistic and extracurricular programing for neuroatypical individuals? And how can neurotypical theatre-makers interested in accessibility and inclusion adapt their approach to rise to the challenges presented by these tensions?