Imagine a live theater experience that welcomes all, where the actors gently guide children on an interactive journey and everyone in the audience not only welcomes but also understands the intricacies and gifts of children on the autism spectrum. Leo Lionni's Frederick, based on the Caldecott Award-winning book, is the latest inclusive theater experience presented by the Chicago Children's Theatre. This multi-sensory adventure actually encourages children to move, laugh, talk, sing and interact with the artists and is specially tailored to fit the unique needs of all children.
Before founding Chicago Children's Theatre, Chicago Children's Theatre Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell worked for 14 years as an artist in residence at Agassiz Elementary School, teaching drama to two autism-specific classrooms through CAPE (Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education). Her experience with students on the autism spectrum led to the Chicago Children's Theatre's ongoing Red Kite Project, a branch of the Chicago Children's Theatre with a commitment to serving children with special needs, especially autism, through the arts.
CCT's playful new production of Leo Lionni's Frederick centers on a mouse that daydreams the day away while the other mice are gathering food for the winter. But when dreary weather arrives, surprise! It was Frederick who stored up something special to help everyone through the long, cold winter. Just like the book, the performance celebrates the ability to transform ordinary objects and everyday ideas into the extraordinary, the idea that there is a place for all of us in this world, and the artist within all of us.
- On Saturday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m., Leo Lionni's Frederick will be interpreted in sign language for families with members who are deaf or hard of hearing. Tickets are $28 children/$38 adults.
- On Saturday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m., all 235 seats at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts will be offered exclusively to families with children on the autism spectrum. Several days before attending, parents will receive a "Social Story" that previews Frederick and prepares their children to experience live theater. That evening's performance is modulated down a bit, additional staff will be on hand to create a safe, welcoming space for every child, and all families can collectively relax and enjoy the show without worrying or getting upset if a child gets loud or active. Tickets are $20.
Leo Lionni's Frederick is running now through Nov. 16 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. For tickets and information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555.