In April 2015, scene4magazine published the article “My Dream Play” by DeafBlind poet John Lee Clark. It had a profound impact on dog & pony dc: a predominantly Hearing company who had only recently begun to broadly incorporate Deaf and Hard of Hearing artists into our projects.
“…my dream play,” Clark concludes, “would make me part of it. The wily playwright has decided who the audience is to be, and the audience, who is I, suddenly becomes an actor.”
It was as if he were inviting us, challenging dog & pony dc to think more broadly and inclusively about what tools we as theatre makers use to tell stories. And so the Sense-Able initiative was born.
How do theatre artists, audiences, and every-day-people-on-the street perceive theatre? Is it an inclusive artform? Is the experience itself inclusive? Accessible? What would their “dream plays” be if we created a theatrical event only with them in mind? dog & pony dc artists conducted live and digital interviews throughout the District to explore these questions. You can take the survey here.
What practices outside of the arts that engage bodies and senses could we adapt and apply to new playmaking? We hosted workshops to learn–along side fellow artists and audiences–yoga, bartending, and physical therapy techniques from area experts. Then, we turned those techniques into storytelling elements.
Could your expectations of a play be met if you could neither see nor hear the performance? Many of us cannot imagine theatre like this, yet we have three other senses–taste, touch, and smell–that inspire and move us just as vividly. We put our interview findings and workshop discoveries into Sense-Able: a play. This short play was created without sight or sound, intending to activate your senses.
Sense-Able: a play placed audiences at the heart of the experience, stretching the idea of what makes “a play.” It performed September 29, September 30, and October 1, 2016 at Third Floor (above Slim’s Diner, 4200 9th Street NW). All performances were free.
Sense-able: a play
Directed by Lorraine Ressegger-Slone and Ben Lauer
Featuring: Ehmonie Hainey, Ben Lauer, Aarron Loggins, Nick Martin, Rebekah Mason, Lorraine Ressegger-Slone, Emily Stemper-Layton.
Sense-Able is supported in part by a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.