Tag Archives: chelsie thompson

rsz_170401_0060

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.

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.