ABLE (Artists Exceeding Boundaries and Expectations)a Chicago-based nonprofit that creates theater and film for, with, and by people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), is returning to live performances after a nearly hiatus 3 years due to COVID-19.
To celebrate this occasion, ABLE is producing its very first festival. On Saturday November 19, 2022, ABLE will produce a full day of events in partnership with Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. The festival, aptly named RECONNECT-will showcase the work of 58 members of the ABLE community through 3 different events. ABLE’s ensembles will present two original performances at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. In between, ABLE’s team of creative associates will provide workshops for audience members to experience the games and activities ABLE uses to bring their ideas to life.
During a 10-week rehearsal process, all three ABLE ensembles collaborated to develop original monologues, scenes, movement pieces and songs inspired by their own lives. The performances will share stories that reflect 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 evil of social media, and poignant reflections on the fears and misunderstandings that occur in the path of true connection.
The pandemic has taken a particularly harsh toll on the disability community. ABLE has remained committed to providing a source of normalcy and routine for its cast with I/DD, and has produced a range of digital projects including Romeo and Juliet Remix and the interactive ABLE Anthology series. As the rest of the world strives to “get back to normal”, people with intellectual disabilities continue to face an increased risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Although ABLE has adopted strict policies to protect its immunocompromised cast and staff, many still choose to participate virtually. In another first for the company, ABLE’s virtual set will film monologues and scenes that will be woven throughout the performances of RECONNECT.
“So much has changed since the last time we were on stage in December 2019.” says ABLE Founder and Executive Artistic Director Katie Yohe. “It’s really special to come back in a way that honors everything we’ve learned over the past 3 years and allows our cast to share their hearts and minds with the audience.”
During the afternoon workshop, the public can play some of the games and activities that are part of ABLE’s distinctive design process. They will be guided by some of ABLE’s Creative Associates. Through the Creative Associates initiative, ABLE employs 6 long-time ensemble members with Down syndrome to support their workshops and outreach programs. ABLE Creative Associates earn a competitive salary while working in a supportive environment that is inclusive and allows them to learn transferable professional skills. This is a unique opportunity for the public to personally connect with the work of ABLE.
It is also an opportunity for ABLE to reconnect with a long-time 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
11:00 a.m. Sunday ensemble performance with members of the Virtual Ensemble
2:00 p.m. Public workshops
7:00 p.m. Monday ensemble performance with members of the Virtual Ensemble
Tickets: All tickets are Pay-what-you-can, general admission
Access: The performances will be subtitled and performed in ASL.
COVID Policies: To ensure immunocompromised ABLE performers and members of the community feel safe and welcome, all audience members must remain masked for the duration of their stay in the theater complex.
Learn more about ABLE:
ABLE – Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations – celebrates its 6th anniversary of creating theater and film projects for, with and by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. ABLE engages actors ages 13 and up through performance ensembles, specialized workshops, and outreach programs. Whether in person or online, all ABLE programs strive to foster agency and develop lifelong skills like communication, collaboration, and creativity. ABLE ensembles have produced more than 25 projects for stage and screen, ranging from adaptations of theatrical classics by Shakespeare, Dickens and Gilbert & Sullivan to original plays. ABLE’s feature films have been recognized by several local and international festivals. By putting people with disabilities in the spotlight, ABLE’s work strives to change societal misconceptions and create more inclusive and caring communities. For more information on ABLE, please visit www.ableensemble.com and find them on Facebook, instagram and Youtube.
Regional Tony Award Recipient Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a bold and innovative season throughout the year – plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions and theatrical presentations from around the world – alongside nationally recognized educational programming serving tens of thousands of students, teachers and lifelong learners each year. Founded in 1986, the Theatre’s stage work has expanded to twenty productions and 650 performances a year. Chicago Shakespeare is dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers; one in four spectators is under the age of eighteen. As a non-profit organization, the Theater strives to embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, provide equitable opportunity, and provide an experience that is accessible to all. On the theater’s three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and city neighborhoods, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multi-faceted cultural center inviting audiences, performers and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire. www.chicagoshakes.com
The 2022-2023 season of Reconnect and ABLE is partially funded 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 Foundation for the Arts.