Category Archives: Education

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First Steps in Symphony Performance: MSYO and MSYS

By Audra DeLaney

Recently, we hired a new Music Director for the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra, Octavio Más-Arocas. At the Season Preview Party, Octavio was introduced by our President & CEO Mike Miller and said he is so thankful to be in Mansfield and that the community has already touched his heart. The Mansfield Symphony Orchestra is a staple at the Renaissance, as it has been around for many years. It is full of talented musicians, most of whom got their start in different musical groups as children. At the Renaissance, there are two programs that help young musicians hone their skills so that they may have the chance to join a group like the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra later in life.

The Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra (MSYO) is made up of some of North Central Ohio’s finest musicians, primarily in high school, from a 12-county region. It is the only youth orchestra within a 65 mile radius of Mansfield and represents approximately 90 members each season who perform concerts both onstage at the Renaissance and in the community. MSYO has been a part of the Mansfield community and Renaissance Theatre since 1982, founded and led for many years by Ettore Chiudioni, and is currently under the direction of Randy Heidlebaugh.

Randy has been a music educator since 1984. Throughout his tenure, he has always encouraged his students to audition for MSYO.

“I have been directly involved with MSYO for the past five years,” Randy said. “Beginning with the 2012-2013 season I served as assistant conductor for two seasons and have been the conductor for the past three seasons.”

He wanted to support the MSYO because of how important he thinks it is to the arts in our local communities. Randy said MYSO gives high school students another opportunity for musical growth through performing with other musicians from the area.

“MSYO offers a place for fine high school musicians to perform a variety of great orchestral music that they may not have the opportunity to do in their respective high school programs,” Randy said. “Many of the high schools that our students come from don’t have a strong or full orchestra , so MSYO offers those students a chance to play in a full symphonic orchestra.”

MSYO performs two concerts each season, one in the fall and one in the spring. Randy has many great memories from rehearsals and concerts.

“Our performance of ‘Nimrod’ from Enigma Variations by Elgar at the December 2015 concert and ‘Variations on a Shaker Melody’ by Aaron Copland at the May 2016 concert are examples of the students really bringing the music to life on a couple of my personal favorite pieces,” he said.

“The most recent memorable moment was our Spring concert of this year when we performed many pieces by American composers and finished the concert with a great performance of Morton Gould’s ‘American Salute’ followed by our encore presentation of John Philip Sousa’s ‘Star and Stripes Forever’ featuring all four of our flute players on piccolo for the piccolo solo. Really fun!”

Since 1992, another program has also encouraged the youth in and around Mansfield in the field of symphony performance.

The Mansfield Symphony Youth Strings (MSYS) program has both complemented the musical instruction young students receive in their schools as well as provided a large ensemble experience to students who have no access to a school orchestra program. The Youth Strings  is comprised of approximately 55 students all playing string instruments like the bass, cello, violin, and viola. The students are mainly in grades 6 through 10 and come from 20 schools in the North Central Ohio area. It was founded by beloved area music teacher Percy Hall. Currently, the MSYS program is under the direction of Matt Domka.

Matt is no stranger to the music community in Mansfield.  He began playing the violin at the age of seven under Mrs. Elva Newdome and played in the Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Ettore Chiudioni. Like Randy, Matt is also a music educator. In 2004 he graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelors of Music Education with a specialization in String Pedagogy.

Matt commented that MSYS also perform two concerts a year like the MSYO and they usually perform six to eight pieces during each concert. He said it is a joy to watch his students progress in their music playing ability the longer they are a part of MSYS.

“It’s also somewhat of a rarity for a city the size of Mansfield to have two youth orchestras as well as an adult orchestra,” Matt said. “This in itself draws attention and traffic to Mansfield. We regularly have students travelling two hours to attend MSYS and MSYO rehearsals.”

For more information on the Youth Orchestra program, please contact Conductor Randy Heidlebaugh at mrhmsyo@mansfieldtickets.com. For more information on the Youth Strings program, visit their website or contact Conductor Matt Domka at matthewdomka@gmail.com. Finally, for more information on other programs offered through the Renaissance Education Department, contact Chelsie Thompson at chelsie@mansfieldtickets.com or 419-522-2726 ext 251.

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What is Broadway Camp?

By Audra DeLaney

If you are a follower of our social media platforms, you have seen a number of posts about a program called Broadway Camp, formerly Camp Broadway. Broadway Camp is a theatre day camp program put on by the Renaissance Education Department that is directed by Mansfield Youth Theatre Director and Education Department Assistant, Dauphne Maloney. Two sessions of Broadway Camp are offered every summer in June and they are open to children ages 8-13. The main purpose of Broadway Camp is for the students in attendance to create and perform their own mini-musical after taking the time to learn about what goes into delivering a worthwhile performance. Each camp is a week long and participants work for four days on their skills, and then on Friday they perform their musical for their families and friends.

Duaphne has a few helpers during Broadway Camp every year. This year, Technical and Production Intern Andy Blubaugh, as well as MY Theatre alumna Hannah Bloir, helped Dauphne run the camp, teach the participants, and do everything in between.

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Broadway Camp campers learn how to tie dye from Andy Blubaugh. Tie dye shirts are what the campers always wear during their performance on Friday for their parents.

Hannah said she is excited to have been able to help with Broadway Camp this year.

“I love watching the kids progress. I love when they start out with initial awkwardness because they don’t know what’s in store and they don’t know each other,” Hannah said. “Then as the week goes on, they start learning more about each other and about the music that we’re learning and it’s so cool to see the end product.”

Hannah said it is interesting to help out during Broadway Camp because of the different dynamics between they campers. She was in a number of shows directed by Dauphne during her middle/high school years and is happy to impact the lives children.

“It’s kinda of fun to be back in that with the kids and see how their different personalities all work together. It’s a lot of fun honestly and it’s just cool to be there for the kids if they need anything.”

Each year, the music for Broadway Camp changes. Each song brings a new energy and set of learning experiences to the student participants and helpers. Hannah said they songs help the participants come out of their shells.

“I love ‘Go Go Go Joesph.’ I love that song and I love the moves that Dauphne put with it,” Hannah said. “It is just a lot of high energy and I think that’s why the kids like it a lot too because they can just kind of let loose.”

Both Broadway Camp sessions this year were centered around music from The Little Mermaid, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lion King, Jr, and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. This year, the first session had longer days than the second one, but they kids still got in the same amount of work and improvement.

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Children listen to Dauphne Maloney as she instructs them on their movements for the song “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid.

“The first week I feel like the group was a little quieter for the whole week, not that their was anything bad about that,” Hannah said. “This group that we have this week, again not in a bad way, have been all over the place this week. Regardless. when they do perform, they all do come together really well.”

Broadway Camp allows students to explore the world of musical theatre in an environment that focuses on the many elements of performance through theatre games, dramatic play, staging and singing. It is an environment that fosters growth and artistic exploration that we hope will benefit the youth in our community in the long run.

If you would like more information about the Renaissance Education Department, please contact Chelsie Thompson at chelsie@mansfieldtickets.com or 419-522-2726 ext 251.

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Arts Education: Why & How We Educate 15,000 Students a Year

By Audra DeLaney

Arts education is one key element to understanding the world around us.

“The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…music, dance, paining, and theatre are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.” – Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett

Our Education Director Chelsie Thompson, along with Education Assistant Dauphne Maloney and a wealth of teaching artists and ensemble directors, provide educational experiences to over 15,000 students in our community across all generations through dozens of educational programs we offer each year. Here is a full list of all of the programs supported by the Renaissance Education Department at this time:

  • Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra
  • Mansfield Symphony Youth Strings
  • Teddy Bear Concerts
  • Mansfield Youth Theatre (MY Theatre)
  • Sensory Friendly Performances
  • Renaissance Youth Opera Theatre (RYOT)
  • Improv Underground
  • Broadway Camp!
  • Integrated Theatre Company
  • Mindsprouts Creative Writing Contest
  • Ghost Story ELA Field Trips
  • Partners in Education
  • Operation Bridge Building
  • Children’s Theatre Foundation Partnership
  • Professional Development
  • Internships

Each of these programs and partnerships bring something different to the educational experience offered at the Renaissance Theatre. By the names of these programs, one can gather that many of them are geared toward youth. While we know that fostering an affinity for the arts early is important, we also know that the arts can affect the life of an individual at any point and time.

In high school, athletics was my strong suit. I loved everything about them, from action packed games to early morning practices. While I still have an admiration for athletics, I have grown to respect the type of change and growth the arts are capable of bringing about in someone.

Finally, arts education plays a role in understanding what it means to be human. The National Standards for Arts Education states, “. . . the arts have been an inseparable part of the human journey; indeed, we depend on the arts to carry us toward the fullness of our humanity. We value them for themselves, and because we do, we believe knowing and practicing them is fundamental to the healthy development of our children’s minds and spirits. That is why, in any civilization – ours included – the arts are inseparable from the very meaning of the term ‘education.’ We know from long experience that no one can claim to be truly educated who lacks basic knowledge and skills in the arts.”

Being human is a journey, one that is full of highs and lows, triumphs and failures, spotless performances and ones where all the microphones don’t turn on. The Renaissance Education Department believes in celebrating the imagination in each of us through real-world experiences that help each person see the journey they and others around them are trailblazing. Programs, partnerships, professional development workshops, and internships are offered to help individuals gain experience and knowledge in their areas of interest, but also to give each person who walks through our doors a look into the life of someone else, what they are grappling with, and how that person’s gifts and talents can be utilized to positively impact those around them.

German Poet Bertolt Brecht elaborated on this thought when he said, “The theater-goer in conventional dramatic theater says: Yes, I’ve felt that way, too. That’s the way I am. That’s life. That’s the way it will always be. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is no escape for him. That’s great art — Everything is self-evident. I am made to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh.”

If you would like more information on programs offered by the Renaissance Education Department, stay tuned for more posts on the individual programs or contact Chelsie Taylor Thompson at chelsie@mansfieldtickets.com or 419-522-2726 ext 251.

3 Tips to Improve Your Singing - The Renaissance Performing Arts3 Tips to Improve Your Singing - The Renaissance Performing Arts

3 Tips to Improve Your Singing

by Colleen Cook

How many times have you heard, or maybe you have said yourself, “I can’t sing.” These words are anguish to me, because in my life singing alone and with others has been the source of some of my greatest joy. To think that so many people miss out on that joy because someone told them they weren’t good at it, or they perceived they weren’t is too sad.

Before working for the Renaissance, I had the privilege to teach vocal music in the public schools and privately and was able to study under some of our generation’s greatest voice scientists and voice pedagogues at Shenandoah Conservatory during my graduate study. Through all of that, one thing was completely evident: nearly everyone can sing. (I only qualify that statement because there are few individuals with vocal injuries or disabilities that do prevent them from singing. But, that is not representative of 99% of people who claim they cannot sing).

Learning to sing is like any other physical skill. As an athlete trains their brain and their body as they prepare for their first 5K or their hundredth marathon, so a singer trains their body to perform what their brain desires. A successful singer engages their entire body in singing, not just their larynx and mouth.

The first day you put on a pair of running shoes, you don’t expect your body to run like an elite runner, but for some reason most people expect their natural untrained voice to sound like a professional singer. And, when it doesn’t, many feel enough shame about their untrained voice that they give up for life. Having personally helped dozens upon dozens of people develop their singing voice from not being able to carry a tune or even match a pitch to successfully singing with performance groups and even pursuing singing as a career, I’m here to say that the idea that “you can’t sing,” is just not true.

If you’re a beginning singer who wants to get better, here are three tips for getting started:

  1. Train your ear to coordinate with your voice
    Sit down at a piano, keyboard, or pull up this handy online pitch pipe and play one pitch. Then, try to sing that same note on the syllable “la.” Does the note you’re producing sound like it’s higher, lower, or the same as the note you are trying to match? If your note is higher, try sliding down until it sounds the same. If it’s lower, try sliding up until it sounds the same. If it sounded the same, then try another until you’re consistently matching pitch.
  2. Get a handle on your registration
    One common pitfall for beginning singers is matching the appropriate registration. The female voice uses “chest” registration, “head” registration, and a “mix” registration.  The male voice uses a “chest” registration, “mix” registration, and “falsetto,” registration. Simply put, each registration coordinates different muscle dominance in your larynx to create a heavier/fuller or lighter/clearer sound. Your “chest” voice is likely similar to the voice you speak with – it’s a full, robust sound that we sometimes associate with lower pitches. Your “head voice” or “falsetto” is a headier, maybe initially airy, lighter quality of registration. Your “mix” is a mix of the two, very commonly used in contemporary singing styles.

    Here are 3 videos that will help you to identify your vocal registers:

     

  3. Start Simple
    Your first race wouldn’t be an ultra-marathon, so don’t start with a pro-level song as you’re learning to sing. Choose a simple melody that you like with a limited range (that is, the distance between the highest and lowest notes); I recommend starting with a lullaby, hymn, or children’s folk song. Practice singing every note on pitch first, then make some choices about vocal registration. Once you have a handle on those things, consider where you might make some dynamic choices, that is, how loud or soft you’ll sing. Then, practice, practice, practice!

    Remember that vocal technique is only part of great singing; at its essence, great singing is also great storytelling. Think about how your face and body will subtly communicate the emotion of the song you are singing, and what vocal choices you can make to better tell that story.

Be encouraged that as you practice these three skills, your voice will improve! And, if you’d like some further help, seek out a voice teacher for a few lessons to help guide your growth. Happy singing!

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4 Ways The Arts Help Children

by Audra DeLaney

Each year, we welcome thousands of children into our theatre. Some of these children are participants, while others walk through our doors as supportive spectators. We understand that fostering an appreciation and an affinity for the arts at a young age will have a lifelong impact. Involvement in the arts has the ability to help children in unique ways as they grow and prepare for the future. Here are just a few ways the arts foster growth:

 

  1. The Arts Develop Math and Reading Skills

The arts help children learn that they can be rewarded through hard work, practice, and discipline. These are important skills to develop while children are in school.  Dr. Richard Letts, Executive Director of the Music Council of Australia is one of many researchers who have concluded that participating in the arts has the ability to help students improve their skills in a range of academic subject areas, such as math and language. “The earlier a child comes to grips with music, the more the brain growth will be influenced,” writes Letts,  “It sets them up for life.”

  1. The Arts Breed Confidence

From concerts to writing contests to theatrical productions, the arts help children put themselves out into their community through showcasing work they have done. Participation in the arts develops a student’s skills in a specific area they they are passionate about, like singing or writing. Rehearsal and editing processes help children realize they won’t always get everything right the first time and that working well with the other artists around them can help them reach their goals.

“Playing in a group, working together and developing negotiation skills are complex processes you have to work through to build a certain confidence,” said Margaret Bradley, a music expert with the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities.

Inevitably, mistakes will be happen. The mistakes made have the ability to ingrain in children that failure is not final and practice brings about progress, helping to build their confidence in themselves to succeed.

  1. The Arts Build Relationships

The arts have the power to bring people together who may not otherwise meet one another. An avid sports fan with a love for music composition may become best friends with a theatre enthusiast who has developed a passion for singing. A first time musical participant may become friends who someone who has been doing shows since he/she was in grade school. In the article “Why Music Listening Makes Us Feel Good,” Dr. Rebecca Sena Moore explains that that many researchers have found that listening to music has a positive effect on our brains.

“When we anticipate and then actually experience a pleasurable response while listening to music, our brain reacts in distinct and specific ways to release the “feel good” chemical dopamine,” writes Moore.

Playing music with others also adds to the release of dopamine that takes place in our brains, strengthening bonds among musicians and each other, as well as their audience members. Friends can become family and lives can be changed through the growth children see in one another while rehearsing for a show or concert, participating in an art festival, or showcasing their talents during a small get together.

  1. The Arts Teach Perseverance

Picking up a guitar, tickling the ivories, or playing notes on a clarinet may open a child’s eyes to seemingly endless possibilities. Throughout life, perseverance is essential to any and all success.

“First comes interest. Passion begins with intrinsically enjoying what you do…Next comes the capacity to practice. One form of perseverance is the daily discipline of trying to do things better than we did yesterday…Third is purpose. What ripens passion is the conviction that your work matters…And, finally, hope. Hope is a rising-to-the-occasion kind of perseverance,” writes Angela Duckworth in her book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.”

Exposing children to the arts shows them that passion for something can take them far in life. First, their heart and mind have to be in it and then they have to work hard even when challenges present themselves.

These are just four of many ways that the arts enhance a child’s life. From musical instruments to live productions and more, the opportunities for children to learn, grow, and discover more about themselves and others through the arts is endless. If you are interested in learning more about our programs for youth and students, click here.

SeasonPreview_Slides(90thAnniversary)

Announcing our 2017-2018 Season!

by Colleen Cook

We have SUCH an incredible 2017-2018 Season Lineup! We’ve been literally bursting to tell you about it, and last night, we had the opportunity to spill the beans on the season!

It’s a big year for the Renaissance Theatre, in fact, it’s our 90th Anniversary year. This January will mark 90 years since the historic Ohio Theatre opened in a blizzard to a sold out house on January 18, 1928. We are remarkably grateful to be here 90 years later, fully-restored and fully-operational, and still selling out on the regular to Mansfield’s incredible audiences.

We have FORTY shows in our 17-18 season, truly something for everyone. So, here’s the rundown:

Renaissance 17-18 season

For way more details, ticket information, and more check out our Events page here!

paper bag puppets

3 Free Performing Arts Activities for Summer Break

by Colleen Cook

Summer break is just about here, and if you’re like most parents, you’re looking for fun activities that will challenge (and occupy) your children during their break – particularly on those rainy days. Here are three fun performing arts activities you can easily execute with minimal effort!

Make sandwich bag puppets and put on a puppet show

Once your children have created their characters, help them to create a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Encourage them to choose a main character, a problem that character has, and a friend or family member who helps them to find a solution. Then, help them write their script.

Finally put on a performance of their show on a makeshift puppet stage – this could be a table turned on its side, a tension rod with a curtain across a doorway, or something your kids can get creative with.

Create percussion instruments and create a rhythm pattern

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

Turn your leftover oatmeal tubs, aluminum cans, and water bottles (and more!) into percussion instruments. This project allows a ton of creativity and you can use things you would otherwise throw away. Add lentils or beans to a container and seal to make a shaker, turn a hollow container to make a drum, or tie together noisy objects (like soda or tin cans) and make a tambourine. You can leave these items as-is, or take them to the next level and decorate with glitter, paint, construction paper, markers, sequins or any other supplies you have hanging around the house.

Once you’ve created your instruments, pick a steady rhythm for each performer – these can be all the same, or each unique. We recommend picking something simple that can be tied to a word pattern. Some of our ideas include (Assuming a 4-beat pattern): “Ham-burger Ham-burger” or “Pepperoni Pepperoni Pepperoni Piz-za” or “Jelly Beans Jelly Beans.” You can use those to get started or write your own.

Creative expressive movement

Create a playlist on your favorite music app (Spotify, iTunes, Apple Radio, whatever) using a wide variety of styles. We recommend including pieces by John Williams, Camille Saint-Saens, and Eric Whitacre.

Then, collect some bouncy balls, scarves, old pantyhose or knee-highs (or anything stretchy!), ribbons, or neckties from your closets. Put on the playlist and encourage your children to move freely through the space with the only rule being to make the objects they choose look like the music they’re hearing. They can move together, or individually, to express the sounds they’re hearing.

If your space isn’t conducive to movement, you can translate this activity to have your student draw or paint what they hear or imagine from the way the music sounds, using watercolors or markers and paper.

Fresh Ideas for Easter Baskets - the Renaissance Blog

Fresh Ideas for Easter Baskets

by Colleen Cook

It’s officially spring, and I still have Halloween candy in my pantry. From two years ago. Does it ever feel to you like we just go from one candy-consuming holiday to the next? We trick-or-treat, then Christmas stockings, Valentine’s parties, and now Easter baskets. The last thing we need is more candy in our cupboard.

So, I’m the Easter Bunny is thinking outside the box when it comes to Easter baskets this year. One of the tenets of our mission at the Renaissance is to “celebrate the imagination in each of us,” so here are some great ideas for Easter basket gifts that celebrate imagination (without rotting your teeth!):

Carrousel Rides

Richland Carrousel Park

We’ll be stuffing Easter eggs with tickets to the Richland Carrousel Park – my girls adore riding the Carrousel, and what better way to welcome spring than to enjoy a day at the Carrousel? And, bonus, you can get 6 rides for just $5! (As I’m writing this post, my 3 year old walked up and saw just the bottom of that photo and shouted, “Hey! Look! That’s the carrousel! I LOVE THE CARROUSEL!”)

New Books

Main Street Books Mansfield

Our friend Llalan Fowler at Main Street Books has a wealth of great choices for families. Here are a couple of sweet suggestions from Llalan:

GuessHow

“Guess how much I love you,” says Little Nutbrown Hare. Little Nutbrown Hare shows his daddy how much he loves him: as wide as he can reach and as far as he can hop. But Big Nutbrown Hare, who can reach farther and hop higher, loves him back just as much. Well then Little Nutbrown Hare loves him right up to the moon, but that’s just halfway to Big Nutbrown Hare’s love for him.

 

EggQuiet

This stunningly beautiful and wonderfully informative book from award-winning artist Sylvia Long and author Dianna Hutts Aston makes for a fascinating introduction to the vast and amazing world of eggs. Featuring poetic text and an elegant design, this acclaimed book teaches children countless interesting facts about eggs. Full of wit and charm, An Egg Is Quiet will at once spark the imagination and cultivate a love of science.


Children’s Museum Visits

Little Buckeye Children's MuseumWe have several gems for families in Mansfield, and Little Buckeye is definitely one of them! Two floors jam-packed with creative exhibits cultivated to foster imagination in your child. If you haven’t been to Little Buckeye before, or in a while, pick up a gift certificate to visit and stick it in this year’s Easter basket – it’s a wonderful way to spend a day as a family.

Theatre Tickets

The Renaissance Theatre - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

There are few things I enjoy as much as sharing something I love with my children. Whether we’re attending a Teddy Bear Concert, a full-stage musical, a family show, or a concert by the Mansfield Symphony, I’m always amazed by the permanence of that memory with my children – they talk about it for years after.

Some great upcoming choices for Easter baskets include tickets to our summer show, The Little Mermaid (July 29-30, Aug. 5-6; tickets starting at $15), the Mansfield Symphony Youth Orchestra’s Spring Concert (May 7th; student tickets $5), and Little Johnny Jones presented by our Renaissance Youth Opera Theatre (May 27-28; tickets $15).


How will you be celebrating the imagination of your children this year? Tell us in the comments over on our Facebook page!

Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Live, 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Three Valuable Lessons from Daniel Tiger

by Colleen Cook

We are BIG Daniel Tiger fans at our house. My husband and I often refer to Daniel Tiger as the third parent in our house, and I am sure any parent of a preschooler knows what I’m talking about. And, if you’re familiar, you’ve also found yourself singing the earworm jingles in the shower and simultaneously realized that you are no longer cool at all. (No? Just me?)

If you’re not familiar, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is the 21st century animated spin-off of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Many of the familiar characters from Fred Rogers’ Land of Make Believe are featured as the adults in this series, with the next generation of preschool-aged neighbors teaching positive behavioral lessons through story and song. It’s produced by Angela Santomero, the genius behind great educational children’s television shows like “Blue’s Clues,” “Super Why,” and “Creative Galaxy.”

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live is on our stage on April 7th at 7 PM – Read more here!

To me, what makes Daniel Tiger so great is that it reinforces emotional intelligence and positive behavior in a memorable way. When you’re in the depths of new parenting, it can be really challenging to know how to change a negative behavior in your child effectively. Daniel’s parents always respond calmly and rationally, even when real-life parents sometimes lose their cool.  There have been many moments when I’ve taken a cue from Daniel and it’s paid off. Here are a few stories:

  1. Happiness counters fear.
    In August 2015 we had a series of thunderstorms. We live in an old, drafty house and when the weather is moderate, we often place a box fan in my daughter’s bedroom window. One afternoon while she was taking a nap, a large gust of wind and clap of thunder during a storm caused the fan to fall out of the window and awoke my daughter in a panic. The very next night we had another thunderstorm and another clap of thunder awoke her into hysterics. This caused several nights of terror as my traumatized toddler was wildly afraid that another thunderstorm would come (and, the reality was, it would!).

    So, we took a cue from Daniel Tiger and watched and re-watched this episode when Daniel and O the Owl were afraid of thunder, and my daughter started “closing her eyes and thinking of something happy,” just the way Daniel did, and her fears subsided.

  2. How our roles evolve as we grow.
    Our daughter Eloise became a big sister to baby Coralie in December 2015. For most kids, adding a sibling to the family is complex and full of emotions ranging from delight to jealousy. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood produced a series of episodes about the addition of “Baby Margaret” to the Tiger family that are incredible for helping a child adjust to a new baby. By giving us the tools to show our 2 1/2 year old that, while she was no longer the baby in the house, she was a valuable helper in our family, our transition to a family of four was as smooth as possible as our daughter took on her role as a “big helper” with pride.
  3. Give your child all the information up front.
    This lesson was maybe a bit more for me than it was for my daughter. In this episode, Daniel’s mom sings “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do.” I’ve adopted this methodology into my parenting and it has been a life-saver. My natural inclination is to limit the information and just deal with things as they happen, rather than add worry and fear to the day. But, talking about about things with my children has been incredibly helpful in allowing them to fully understand and avoid surprises.

I’m so thrilled that we get to bring Daniel Tiger and his neighbors to our stage once again this April. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live is an excellent interpretation of the animated show, featuring many familiar songs along with newly composed pieces, all of the beloved characters, and a story that reinforces the lessons you want your child to learn. I can’t wait to bring my daughters.

Sensory-Friendly Theatre

Sensory-Friendly Performances: What, When, and How Much We Love Them

By Chelsie Thompson

We take our mission to make the arts accessible very seriously – it is the lifeblood of our work and the passion behind everything we do here – so one of the things that matters more than anything to the Ren team is creating an exceptional patron experience, for all of our patrons.

Of course, we know that going to the theatre is more comfortable for some than others. Families or persons with autism or other disabilities that create sensory sensitivities, in particular, may find the prospect of attending a performance at the Renaissance to be somewhat daunting.

Let us assure you: we are committed to creating an experience that will thrill and delight every single member of our diverse audience. So, we are expanding our ability to offer sensory-friendly performances, which began with a sensory-friendly performance of Shrek the Musical in our 2016-2017 season.

For those who aren’t familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others (source: Autism Society of America, 2013). This can easily create feelings of anxiety and stress for a person with autism when attending a performance in a space that may be crowded, loud, and have sudden or unexpected happenings.

Luckily, there is a lot that we can do to make the performance experience a pleasant and welcoming one for those patrons with sensory sensitivities. Here are a few of the accommodations that you can expect when you come to the Ren for a sensory-friendly performance:

  • Lower sound and light levels, especially during louder or more dramatic events
  • The freedom for patrons to leave their seats or talk during the performance
  • Designated quiet areas
  • Places to move or stand while still enjoying the performance
  • Lower crowd sizes
  • Pre-show visits and videos to acclimate to the theatre environment
  • A staff and volunteer team that is trained to be inviting and accommodating

Let’s pause to look at that last bullet point: our staff and volunteer team is now trained to not only design and create sensory-friendly programming, but to be the welcoming faces who are here to help you enjoy these meaningful events. Thanks to an anonymous donor, we’ve had the good fortune to work with consultant Dr. Ryan Hourigan, Director of the School of Music at Ball State University and a parent of two teenage boys with autism.

Dr. Hourigan is a nationally-recognized author and advocate for the inclusion of students with disabilities in the arts, and he first came to us through our Kennedy Center Partners in Education program as a teaching artist on their national roster (and he also co-founded the incredible Prism Project at BSU, which has now grown to multiple locations across the country). Since his first workshop for our local teachers in the 2014-2015 season, he’s offered additional professional development for both teachers and the Ren team. Most recently, he visited in February for training and to help us confirm logistics for our sensory-friendly performances

While we are thrilled to be able to work with Dr. Hourigan (we’ll admit it – our staff is a bunch of arts nerds who love learning new things), we are even more excited for our patrons to be able to experience the performing arts in a way that may be more comfortable for them. We feel that there has been a segment of our audience that we haven’t been serving well, and we want to correct that, so you can expect to see more sensory-friendly programming on the schedule in the coming seasons. Why? Because above all else, the arts are good for us, and they are inclusive.

For more information on our sensory-friendly performance offerings, please contact the Renaissance Box Office directly at (419) 522-2726.