Performers with disabilities
return to the stage
Chicago nonprofit A.B.L.E. celebrates a return to live performances with an all-day festival of performances and workshops at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Saturday, November 19, 2022
Chicago—October 20, 2022—A.B.L.E. (Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations), a Chicago-based nonprofit that creates theatre and film for, with, and by individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), is thrilled to return to live performances after a nearly 3-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
To celebrate this occasion, A.B.L.E. is producing their first-ever festival. On Saturday, November 19, 2022, A.B.L.E. will produce a full day of events in partnership with Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. The festival—appropriately called RECONNECT—will feature the work of 58 members of the A.B.L.E. community across 3 different events. A.B.L.E.’s ensembles will present two original performances at 11am and 7pm. In between, A.B.L.E.’s team of Creative Associates will offer workshops for members of the public to experience the games and activities A.B.L.E. uses to bring their ideas to the stage.
Over the course of a 10-week rehearsal process, A.B.L.E.’s three ensembles have collaborated to develop original monologues, scenes, movement pieces and songs inspired by their own lives. The performances will share stories that reflect on the ways we connect with ourselves, with our loved ones, and with our community. Pieces range from touching letters to loved ones we’ve lost, to celebrations of our closest friends, to humorous dream dates, to meditations on the good and bad of social media, as well as poignant reflections on the fears and miscommunications that get in the way of true connection.
The pandemic has taken a particularly harsh toll on the disability community. A.B.L.E. remained committed to providing a source of normalcy and routine for their actors with I/DD, and produced a range of digital projects including Romeo and Juliet Remix and the interactive A.B.L.E. Anthology series. As the rest of the world pushes to get “back to normal,” people with intellectual disabilities continue to face an increased risk of severe complications from COVID-19. Despite A.B.L.E. enacting strict policies to protect their immunocompromised actors and staff, many are still opting to participate virtually. In another first for the company, A.B.L.E.’s virtual ensemble will film monologues and scenes that will be woven throughout the performances in RECONNECT.
“So much has changed since the last time we were onstage in December 2019.” says A.B.L.E. Founder and Executive Artistic Director, Katie Yohe. “It’s really special to come back in a way that honors all that we’ve learned over the past 3 years, and lets our actors share their hearts and minds with audiences.”
During the afternoon workshop, audiences can play some of the games and activities that are part of A.B.L.E. 's distinctive devising process. They’ll be guided by some of A.B.L.E.’s Creative Associates. Through the Creative Associates initiative, A.B.L.E. employs 6 longtime ensemble members with Down syndrome to support their workshops and outreach programs. A.B.L.E.’s Creative Associates earn a competitive wage while working within an environment that is supportive, inclusive and allows them to build transferable job skills. This is a unique opportunity for audiences to personally connect with A.B.L.E.’s work.
This is also an opportunity for A.B.L.E. to reconnect with longtime collaborator, Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The companies have previously co-produced Twelfth Night (2016), Cyrano de Bergerac (2018), Thereby Hangs a Tale (2018), and As You Like It (2019).
Saturday, November 19, 2022
Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater
800 East Grand Avenue on Navy Pier
Chicago IL, 60611
- 11am: Performance by the Sunday ensemble with members of the Virtual Ensemble
- 2pm: Public Workshops
- 7pm: Performance by the Monday ensemble with members of the Virtual Ensemble
Tickets: All tickets are Pay-what-you-can, general admission
- Online: http://www.ableensemble.com/reconnect
- Phone: 312.595.5600
- In person: at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater box office
Access: Performances will be open-captioned and ASL-interpreted.
COVID Policies: To ensure A.B.L.E.’s immunocompromised performers and community members feel safe and welcome, all audience members must remain masked for the duration of their time in the theater complex.
More about A.B.L.E.:
A.B.L.E.—Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations—is celebrating their 6th anniversary of creating theatre and film projects for, with, and by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A.B.L.E. engages actors ages 13 and up through performance ensembles, specialized workshops, and outreach programming. Whether in person or online, all A.B.L.E. programs strive to foster agency, and nurture lifelong skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity. A.B.L.E.'s ensembles have produced more than 25 projects for the stage and screen, ranging from adaptations of theatrical classics by Shakespeare, Dickens, and Gilbert & Sullivan, to original pieces. A.B.L.E.’s feature films have been recognized by several local and international festivals. By placing people with disabilities in the spotlight, A.B.L.E.’s work strives to shift societal preconceptions, and build more inclusive, empathetic communities. For more information about A.B.L.E., please visit www.ableensemble.com and find them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
More about producing partner, Chicago Shakespeare Theater:
Regional Tony Award-recipient Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a bold and innovative year-round season—plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside nationally recognized education programming serving tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lifelong learners each year. Founded in 1986, the Theater’s onstage work has expanded to as many as twenty productions and 650 performances annually. Chicago Shakespeare is dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers; one in four of its audience members is under the age of eighteen. As a nonprofit organization, the Theater works to embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, provide equitable opportunities, and offer an accessible experience for all. On the Theater’s three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural hub—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire. www.chicagoshakes.com
RECONNECT and A.B.L.E.’s 2022-2023 Season is partially supported by grants from:
The Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development, The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, The Illinois Arts Council, Innovation 80, The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts.
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