Sense-Able was born from dog & pony dc’s realization–somewhat embarrassingly–that as an audience-focused and boundary-pushing as we are, we were still operating from a pretty rigid “center of normalcy” when it came to our theatre-making practices. In 2014 and 2015 as we were working more intimately with artists who are Deaf, producing in art museums and other non-theatre venues, and incorporating more interactive technology, we came to understand that we weren’t fully utilizing all the theatrical design elements or manipulating them for tactile or interactive use as much as we could. With Sense-Able we’re chipping away at the idea of “normal” in how we make and experience theatre. In challenging our aesthetic frames, we’re searching for new inroads to create more inclusive audience-integrated theatre.
What are our assumptions and biases about how theatre should be made and experienced? How can we work to overcome them? What art-forward techniques can we develop to make change in ourselves, audiences, and, eventually, the field?
In 2015, we decided our first area of focus would be the elimination of sight and sound in our performance generation process–as if we were making short pieces for DeafBlind community. This was inspired by the Scene4magazine article “My Dream Play” by DeafBlind poet John Lee Clark. As a mixed hearing and Deaf, and exclusively sighted, company, we recognize that it is the dominant culture (hearing, sighted, non-disabled, etc.) that needs to be doing the learning and awareness. We ended up joining forces with the DeafBlind Theatre Project, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, which gave us a theatrical focus–“Shakespeare without Sight or Sound.”