Local theater groups bring autism awareness to their performances

Father and teen son with fingertips touching, serious expressions
Photo courtesy of the Some Theater Company

Who would have imagined an afternoon or evening at the theater could open your eyes to the world of a teen on the autism spectrum and to the daily challenges and joys parents encounter in that world?

Thanks to the Some Theater Company (STC) in Orono and the Midcoast Actors Studio in Belfast recent productions of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” theatergoers were immersed in the life and sensory experiences of Christopher Boone, a teen on the autism spectrum with exceptional math skills and a desire to become a NASA scientist. As Christopher sets out to solve a neighborhood mystery, his life takes an unexpected turn, revealing the complex family dynamics and emotions of family life and love when it includes a child with autism.

Both theater groups were dedicated to the honest portrayal of their characters and toward using this production as a means of raising autism awareness and understanding in their communities. Elaine Bard, Artistic Director for the STC described their inspiration saying, “Often theater has the ability to break down barriers and help facilitate education in important topics.  Our hope is that by bringing this show to our community, we can help overcome obstacles and reach out and teach.” She added, “Curious Incident challenges its audience to understand the complexities of truly accepting difference.”

The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) supported the efforts of both theater groups by providing autism information and support to the casts and crews as needed and by participating in promotional radio interviews and a Talkback session.  During the shows, we offered autism fact sheets and MAIER information to those attending, and also partnered with the theater groups to host a sensory-friendly show especially for individuals on the spectrum and their families. Suzanne Ramczyk, Director for the Midcoast Actors Studio production of “Curious,” described the positive feedback her cast and crew received from the community, adding, it “was a rewarding experience for me [as the Director], overall, and I was thrilled to do such an important piece.”

MAIER would like to express our sincere thanks to Elaine & Gerry Bard of the STC and Jason Bannister and Suzanne Ramczyk of the Midcoast Actors Studio, and their cast and crews, for their energy and commitment to this experience and to their outreach and support of the autism community.

Do you have a family member on the spectrum that is interested in acting or theater production? The “STC is committed to diversity and encourages performers of all ethnicities, gender identities, and ages, as well as performers with disabilities, to audition. [The STC is dedicated to] representing all members of our community on stage” ( https://www.stcmaine.org/about , retrieved 6/8/19). For more information on getting involved with the STC, contact Elaine Bard at sometheatrecompanyme@gmail.com or call 207-356-6501.

Upcoming: Sensory–Friendly theater production of The Little Mermaid

The Maine State Music Theatre In Brunswick is offering a sensory-friendly performance of The Little Mermaid on August 17. This 50-minutes long musical version of the familiar fairy tale is free to children with social, cognitive, or physical challenges, but tickets are required. Visit the MSMT website for more information on tickets or call 207-725-8769 to reserve seats. And be sure to check out the MSMT social narrative before attending the show!