Category Archives: Theatre

Educational Impact of Theatre Renaissance Performing Arts

5 Reasons You Should Take Your Teen to the Theatre

Yes, we’re biased, but research indicates that the benefits of taking your teen to the theatre are countless. Whether you’re planning your outings for the school year, thinking ahead to the holidays, or spontaneously trying to change up your routine, live arts and entertainment should find a place in your calendar for these great reasons!

  1. Live theatre is beneficial to students’ educational development
    Educational Impact of Theatre Renaissance Performing Arts

    Among many others, University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform cites that arts attendance for students enhances literary knowledge, tolerance, empathy and holds “significant benefits in the form of knowledge, future cultural consumption, tolerance, historical empathy and critical thinking.”
  2. Theatre attendance develops appreciation for the arts and the community
    Web_Renaissance-Theatre-photo-by-Jeff-Sprang
    Engaging in your community’s cultural assets and experiencing excellent arts & entertainment in your town will develop a lifelong appreciation and investment for your impressionable teen.
  3. It forces them to “unplug” for the evening
    daria-nepriakhina-198549
    Parents are increasingly aware of the damage being done to their teens through smartphone use with frightening statistics on loneliness, suicide rates, depression being tied to smartphone use. Giving them an opportunity to be engaged among a crowd of people, outside their bedroom, without looking at a screen is a bigger deal than we ever realized.
  4. It develops empathy and a sense of belonging
    1606024_089
    Humans are hard-wired for story. When you can engage with story through the performing arts, you are more likely to understand foreign ideas and concepts, develop empathy for those who are different from you, and feel that you are not alone when working through a personal challenge or transition.
  5. It’s an opportunity for your family to bond
    Christmas Carol 2017 Renaissance Theatre

    Raising teenagers is challenging, and it can be increasingly hard to connect emotionally in everyday conversation. Bonding through a shared hobby or interest, such as theatre attendance, creates a safe place for open conversation and shared time that can feel like a breath of fresh air for both parent and child.

Why do you come to the theatre? Tell us in the comments.

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!

Renaissance Theatre Season Preview Party 2016 photo by Jeff Sprang

5 Really Good Reasons to Attend the #RenSeason Preview Party

by Colleen Cook

If you’ve never been to our Season Preview Party before, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. After all, we’ll be publishing the season online right after the party, but there are some PRETTY good reasons to make plans to be there.

  1. Prizes and Giveaways

    Every guest at our Season Preview receives a goody bag chock-full of goodness, and this year’s are better than ever. Plus, we giveaway some pretty big deal items, and your odds of winning are higher than ever this year… but only if you’re there!

  2. Exclusive Performances and BIG Announcements

    The Season Preview is your first glimpse of our entire season. You’ll get to hear music from our upcoming musicals, see and hear things you’ve never seen or heard before, and we’ll be making some pretty exciting announcements you won’t want to miss.

  3. It’s FREE!

    The Season Preview is our chance to say THANKS to our audience and we are probably crazy for doing this, but it’s totally free!  That said, you do need to get a ticket for this event (which you can do so right here: https://seasonpreviewparty.eventbrite.com/)

  4. Delicious Desserts

    After the big season announcement, we have an awesome dessert reception in our lobby! Who doesn’t love awesome desserts?

  5. First access to tickets

    Tired of someone else getting the best seats before you? Subscriptions for our members go on sale that very night! If you’re not yet a member, you can take care of that at the party too.

Haven’t claimed your ticket to the Season Preview yet? You can do that right here.

Web_Renaissance-Theatre-photo-by-Jeff-Sprang

A First-Timer’s Guide to Going to the Theatre

by Colleen Cook

You’ve got your tickets, your date is set and that squirmy feeling sets in – you know, the “I’m-about-to-do-something-new-and-don’t-want-to-feel-out-of-place” feeling. Leave the antacids in the medicine cabinet, we’ve got your back. After all, we all go to the theatre for the first time once! While we do our best to be a welcoming place for everyone, there are a few customs you might want to be aware of and a few tips for being a pro-audience member that can be helpful in making you feel comfortable enough to enjoy the show at your leisure.

Before we get into our tips & tricks, here are a few terms we’ll be using that you may want to be familiar with:

GLOSSARY

Orchestra – The ground level of seating.
Balcony – The higher tier of seating.
House – The part of the theatre where audiences sit.
Intermission – Theatre’s version of halftime. Most shows have a ten to 15-minute intermission.
Box Office – The part of our theatre where you purchase tickets. Ours is located at the front of our building.
Will Call – The part of the Box Office you visit to pick up your pre-purchased tickets. Our Will Call window is located inside the theatre lobby walkthrough between the new and historic lobbies.

Before You Get to the Theatre

  1. Plan to arrive about 20-30 minutes before a showtime. This allows adequate time to park your vehicle, enter the building, purchase concessions, and pickup or purchase tickets, and use the restroom. For shows that are sold out or close to selling out, you may want to plan another 10-15 minutes more.
  2. Dress in layers. In the summer when the air conditioning is on, the theatre may feel a little cool to you, and may feel too warm to you in the winter when the heat is running. Our building is very large and it’s impossible to please everyone with a thermostat setting, so plan accordingly.
  3. Speaking of dress, we don’t have a dress code! We regularly see a wide range of casual clothes (jeans and t-shirts) to formalwear (tuxedos and ballgowns). If you want to make a statement with your clothes, a night at the theatre is a great time to do that! If you prefer to blend in with the crowd, a good general rule is to wear what you might wear for a nice dinner out. For country and rock concerts and comedy shows, our audience tends to dress even more casually.
  4. Order your tickets in advance. For many of our shows, we have tickets available at the door, but that’s not always the case. There are three ways to do this: visit our Box Office (open Tuesday through Friday from 12-5), call during those same hours (419) 522-2726, or purchase online anytime at MansfieldTickets.com. (There’s a small fee for online sales from our ticketing company, which we don’t charge via phone or in person).

When You Get to the Theatre

  1. Entrance doors are at the front of the theatre on Park Avenue and at the rear from the parking lot on Third Street. We have a coat check inside the theatre if you’re coming on a cold night.
  2. Choose the right line. If you’ve already purchased your tickets but don’t have them in hand, you don’t need to visit our box office at the front of the theatre, and can instead simply visit our Will Call window, where you’ll be asked for the name the tickets were purchased under. Pro-tip: have your order confirmation number handy in case there’s any issue with picking up your tickets.
  3.  Visit the restroom. We have men’s and women’s restrooms located adjacent to our lobby area, and family restrooms located in the back corner of the lobby across from coat check. It’s recommended that you visit before the show begins so you don’t need to miss a moment of the performance! Pro-tip: Our family restrooms have a changing table available and the toilets manually flush.
  4. Look for the volunteers in red vests. Once you begin to enter the house for seating, our volunteer ushers and ticket takers will guide you to your seat. Each member of our Encore League volunteer corps wears a red vest so you can find them quickly.

Once You’re Seated

  1. Your program is your guide to the show. Think of it like a roadmap to what you’ll be experiencing. The program will probably include a letter from the director, a listing of songs or scenes, information about the performers, and acknowledgments to the individuals who made the show possible (staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors, creators, and local businesses). Don’t miss your opportunity to read through it while the lights are up, because it will add to your experience.
  2. Silence your phone. There’s nothing more distracting than notifications and ringtones interrupting a show. Don’t be “that guy.”
  3. No photos or videos. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and we’ll let you know in our curtain speech before the show begins if this show is one of them. Even if people around you are taking photos, it’s best to refrain. Besides – your photos won’t be nearly as good as the real experience. Engage and enjoy (not through a screen).

During and After the Show

  1. Sit back and enjoy! This is what you’ve been waiting for – soak it all in! For most shows, it’s best to sit back in your seat so everyone has a clear sight-line to the stage. (The exception is on occasion, some of our live concerts encourage the audience to stand. When in doubt, sit back and relax).
  2. When should I applaud? It’s customary to applaud after a musical number and at the end of an act. At a concert, the audience will also applaud when the performer comes on stage. There are a few other applause cues for a symphony concert which you can read about here.
  3. Stay quiet through the performance. Aside from a ringing cell phone, talking during a performance is the most distracting offense of theatre etiquette. If you’re attending with a young child, it’s a good idea to arrive early and explain the story to your little one before the show starts. Challenge them to the quiet game: While the lights are off, we can’t make any sound! If you’re attending a show with music you know and love, that’s great! But, save the sing-a-long for the car ride or your next karaoke night. (Sometimes at a concert, the performer will encourage the audience to sing along, and that’s the exception to this rule).
  4. While you’re in the theatre, keep your feedback on the performance neutral or positive.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however our audience is probably filled with people who have worked hard to make this performance happen or have a loved one who is a part of the show. If, however, you have a concern or problem, find a staff member or volunteer and they will be thrilled to help you find a solution.

We’re so glad to have you as a part of our audience, thank you for choosing us. We hope this visit is the first of many to come! And, if we didn’t answer some of our questions, feel free to call our Box Office at (419) 522-2726 or message us on Facebook.

Local and Creative Mother's Day Gifts

Five Local & Creative Mother’s Day Gifts

by Colleen Cook

Each May, many of us have the opportunity to tell our moms how much they mean to us. For one day, a (mostly) thankless job is recognized in a small way… so let’s try this year to think a little creatively and make this a moment she’ll remember on those hard days.

1. Gourmet Chocolate

Mother’s Day is in that sweet spot (pun fully intended) between Easter and Halloween when all the chocolate in the house is MIA. I literally was emptying my pantry just last night searching for a morsel of dark chocolate and… nada. So, don’t skimp – get the good stuff.
We recommend: Squirrel’s Den Chocolatier

2. A Night Out

She’s your cruise director, chauffeur, and project manager – maybe, for once, make the plans and let her just go along with it! Pick up gift certificates to the theatre, dinner, and drinks after the show and let her have a worry-free night off!
We recommend: Gift Certificates to City Grille, Phoenix, and The Renaissance

3. Spa Treatment

Mom always comes last (how many times has she eaten a cold dinner of her own making?), so treat her to some pampering and help those shoulders to relax a bit! At the very least, she’ll be grateful for the hour or two of peace and quiet and the time to get her head centered.
We recommend: Studio 19 Salon & Spa

4. Jewelry

There’s something particularly special about a beautiful piece of jewelry – it’s a sparkling reminder of how loved you are, it’s a marker for a particularly special moment, and it’s an heirloom for generations to come testifying to the love someone had in their life.
We recommend: Miller’s Diamond Jewelry

5. Photographs

As a mom, I’ve been personally responsible for coordinating family photographs every time we’ve had them and it’s easily the most stressful day ever. Getting everyone polished, dressed, and smiling is seriously almost not worth it… until I see the glorious products a skilled photographer can turn out. Save mom the headache this year and give some awesome photos of her children without the stress.
We recommend: Tog Loft

Writing Original Productions Photos by Jeff Sprang Photography

Writing Original Productions: An Interview with Michael Thomas

by Colleen Cook with Michael Thomas

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have favorite shows that we do here at the Renaissance, and the upcoming production of Hot Mess: A Lethal New Musical is easily my most favorite thing that’s ever been on our stage. It’s poignant and hilarious, crude and bold, and absolutely endearing. One of my favorite elements of Hot Mess is the fact that it’s “stage on stage,” meaning that the audience is seated on the stage with the performance happening right in front of them; when a show pushes the boundaries the way Hot Mess does, the audience is just as much a player as any of the eccentric characters on stage. (Maddie Beer, Colton Penwell, and I take a deep dive into this particular aspect in our recent podcast about Hot Mess, which you can listen to here)

Truth is, I feel this enthusiastic about everything our brilliant Artistic Director Michael Thomas writes: in my opinion his creative genius has raised the bar for the performing arts in Mansfield and I’m thrilled that we get to see his creations on our stage. Michael has a remarkable background in the performing arts (which he talks about on an early episode of our podcast and in this recent blog post) and as a writer for stage, TV, and film. Since his background looks so different from my own, I wanted to learn more about what it takes to write a musical from scratch:

Colleen Cook: When and how did you start writing musicals? Do you have a favorite one that you’ve written?

Michael Thomas: When I was in the 7th or 8th grade, I started to write these silly parodies – probably inspired by the sketches I saw on the Carol Burnett Show. Her writers would spoof classic films, such as Gone With the Wind and Sunset Boulevard, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I started to write parodies of Broadway musicals – complete with songs. The only one I can remember off the top of my head, I called The Sound of Her Music – which told the story of Marla Von Tramp and her crusade to corrupt the children she was meant to govern. Classy stuff. But remember, I was 12.

As far as a favorite piece I’ve written? I think, like all writers, I have a love/hate relationship with my original works. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I definitely have favorite moments from the original shows that have premiered at the Renaissance. The despairing high school boy from Remember Me Always who pens a heart-rendering letter to his television hero because he’s thinks it’s the only friend he’s got. Or the frustrated teacher, from that same piece, who is so addled by the idea of teaching sex ed, that she advises all the girls to get hysterectomies. I love the couple in Hot Mess who adopt more and more children – not to better their lives, but to add to their celebrity standing. Or Sally from Twilight Gardens, who, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, proudly hands a caregiver a picture she’s tried to color from a child’s coloring book. I’m incredibly lucky because I’ve not only gotten to write and stage new musicals for the Ren, but also productions for Lori Turner’s RYOT shows, Neos Dance Theatre’s original ballets, collaborations with the Mansfield Symphony as well as the scripts for our Teddy Bear concerts.

CC: How did you come up with the idea for Hot Mess?

MT: All year long, we get emails from agents pitching shows they would like us to book – and nine times out of ten, they are an incredibly weak, hastily-written, hodgepodge of ideas performed by a thrown-together cast but given a clever, topical title. Spoofs based on 50 Shades of Gray, The Real Housewives or one-joke-shows snickering at menopause or mid-life crises. I don’t watch reality television – in fact the best decision I ever made was to have my satellite dish yanked out a few years ago – so I had no idea who or what a Kardashian was – or why anyone would have an interest in plumbing the depths of a Duck Dynasty. But still, I was fascinated by why the public was so obsessed with watching unfortunate souls paraded out to air their dirty laundry on cable TV. I knew I didn’t want to just plop a bunch of silly characters up on stage and try to fill a two hour show, so I turned to classic literature to find a story to use as a basis. I searched through all of Shakespeare and even golden oldies like The Iliad and Beowulf. Nothing worked. Then I started to think about the classic Greek drama, Medea, written by Euripedes in 431 BC. Here was a woman who came from nothing, fought her way to the top, got kicked to the curb by her husband, then did something terrible to get her name back in the headlines again. It seemed like the perfect fit – and despite the fact that it was written 24 centuries ago, improbably modern and topical.

CC: When you’re writing a musical, what are some of the considerations you make?

MT: Well, first and foremost, you have to come up with a good story. And then you have to think about whether your story is song-worthy. Is there a reason for the song to be there? Even in the silliest of shows there has to be a reason your characters open their mouths and start to sing.

CC: You have a gift for writing things that are really hilarious. How can you tell if a joke will work?

MT: Even after all these years I still wonder if a joke will work or not. Years ago, I wrote what I thought was a hilarious line for our musical version of Hamlet that ran in Chicago for years and years. Claudius and Polonius are trying to think of a way to trap Hamlet. Claudius excitedly proclaims “I have an idea!” – and Polonius shouts “Is it Velcro? Have you invented Velcro?” To this day that still makes me laugh – but when played in front of an audience, we got crickets. Not a single titter. So you really just have to wait and see how and if the audience responds before you know if the joke works.

CC: Is it different writing for a live setting than when you’re writing for screen?

MT: Yes. When writing for the screen you use a real economy of words because you usually rely more on the action. I’ll use The Wizard of Oz for an example. On stage, Dorothy might land in Munchkinland and say:

Dorothy: Oh my goodness, this is a strange land indeed. I’ve never seen anything like this in Kansas. Look at the tiny houses and the tiny streets. The strange plants and beautiful waterfalls. It’s so beautiful! Do you think this is all a dream?

The screenplay, however, focuses more on action – so that the scene reads like this:

Dorothy opens the door and the world is suddenly vibrant and colorful, filled with oversized flora and crystal blue waterfalls. Here and there tiny houses, complete with tiny doors and tiny windows, dot the landscape. She rubs her eyes, wondering if it’s all a dream.

Dorothy: I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

When working with first time writers on their screenplay, (and believe me, EVERYONE has a screenplay idea!), I point out the fact that most of us have spent our entire lives watching movies and television – so screenwriting and story structure is probably a lot more familiar to us than we realize.


At the time of publication, we still have a few seats left for the upcoming production of Hot Mess, but they’ll likely sell out soon so don’t delay. More info and tickets here. By the way, it’s chock-full of “mature content,” and for adults only.

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.

Spinning Sisters: The Revolving Stage

By Colleen Cook

When you look at our staff list, the reality is that our titles are a little misleading. While we are each responsible for our primary job functions, each of our staff members possess unique and specialized skills and talents that overlap into many other areas of our organization, and are frequently showcased.

Mike Miller, for example, in addition to being President & CEO, is a talented sound engineer as well as a performer. Dauphne Maloney, in addition to being our Education Assistant and director of MY Theatre, is a skilled costumer. Her creations are seen in nearly every theatrical production on our stage.  Steven Au is our very gifted graphic designer and also happens to be an outstanding violinist who frequently plays with our Mansfield Symphony. And Jason Kaufman isn’t just our Facilities Manager, he also happens to imagine and build incredible sets for our productions as a set designer and carpenter.

Jason’s designs have created beautiful sets like we saw this season in Beauty and the Beast and A Christmas Carol. You might know Jason from Main Street Books, or perhaps you’ve seen some of his sculptural work around town – one of our favorites is the heart sculpture at Relax, It’s Just Coffee. Or maybe you’ve just admired his work from our audience – who will ever forget the haunting beauty and intricacy of the willowy branches in Beauty and the Beast in Summer 2016?

Beauty and the Beast 2016 - Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Beauty and the Beast 2016 – Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Colleen Cook: When and how did you get into set building here at the Ren?

Jason Kaufman: The first set I worked on was Mary Poppins, I think. I wasn’t really lead on that, but I did pitch in quite a bit. I ended up as lead set builder when we had a staff member leave and we had a void where no one was really taking the lead and I just sort of ended up in that place. I really enjoy that position and I wanted to step into that. We had a really great intern for Mary Poppins, Abe Swanger, and he did such good work that we ended up hiring him and he became my assistant set builder. Abe is very skilled and our personalities meld very well, and we also have an unspoken understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we just know what needs done with very few words. It’s been a very seamless partnership.

CC: Can you tell us about your background in visual art?

JK: I’ve always been interested in art. I went to college at Kent State and I knew I wanted to do something in the arts. I thought maybe art education, but after a few classes I realized that wasn’t for me. I started taking all kinds of arts classes and landed in glassworking program at Kent. Their program is very sculptural-based, where you use glass with other materials, so less focused on craft-based vessels and blowing and more fine art based. I ended up getting a degree in studio crafts with a focus in glass-casting, and then I have a minor in fine arts.

CC: What’s one of the most challenging set pieces you’ve gotten to build to date?

JK: Definitely the revolve for the Sister Act set. It is built in a modular way, with a 12-foot wide disc that can be disassembled into 10 segments, made by creating our own tongue-and-groove pattern so they all slide within one another and are bolted together. But, that required a significant amount of engineering. Everything needed to fit precisely and has to be put back together exactly the same way each time. And then, once that was put together, we had to figure out how to motorize it, which took a lot of trial and error to get the gearing right on the motor and the drive wheel.

View from above: The Revolving Stage

View from above: The Revolving Stage (Photo by Jason Kaufman)

I had a lot of help from my dad Rick Turske, because I’m not as mechanically-inclined as he is. It was a lot of trial and error, and we actually found an old treadmill that we were able to remove the motor from and since the variable speed adjustment was already attached to that, we could use that. Once we got the gearing right with the wheel driving the turntable, it spins easily and smoothly. We’ve had five or six people on it spinning.

Here’s a sneak peek of the incredible revolving stage in action!

Sister Act runs March 4-5, 11-12 and will be incredible – learn more and get tickets to this awesome show here.