Thursday, May 23, 2019

OTW Reflection: Workshop with Tim Webb on Theater for Students with Special Needs

Tim Webb has an infectious energy that almost seems to precede him as he enters a space.  And once he begins to talk, to passionately share his devised Oily Cart “wonderlab”  theatre production work on behalf  of “impossible audiences,” you immediately recognize that not only are you encountering a unique energy, but perhaps an artistic alchemist as well.  Tim Webb and his collaborators seem to have a talent for taking a handful of every day elements and transposing them into priceless theatre moments and events.

I had been looking forward to my workshop with Tim from the moment it was publicized…I daresay I was one of the first to register!  The opportunity  seemedsynchronicitious to me.   Having recently been awarded a Professional Development Assignment (sabbatical) to design, create, implement and evaluate a drama program for youth on the autism spectrum, I was eager to learn more about what other teaching and performing artists, directors and devisors were doing for and with this unique population.   Imagine my delight in discovering I would have the chance to work with and learn from an international leader.

There were colleagues who worried that I was doing it a bit backward…wouldn’t I be better off participating in the workshop before starting my own work.  As it turned out, it was a true reversal of fortune.  My experiences working with students on every aspect of the spectrum from early January to late April provided me with the perfect context for viewing, considering and reflecting on Oily Cart’s work as presented by Tim.  What Tim had to share, by and large, wasn’t “new.”  Certainly, as theatre artists, we have all had the opportunity to explore and teach drama activities and create theatre that made use of the senses, created environments, and communicated kinesthetically.  What made this work so different and distinct, what made it come to life for me was not only Tim’s passion that all of those elements be used in the  most integrated of ways, but that the work  begin, evolve and reach its artistic conclusion, each and every time from  the perspective of the “impossible audience.”

In addition to enhancing my own understanding of ways of working with students on the spectrum, the workshop confirmed discoveries I had made, helped me better understand (and appreciate) failures and challenges I had encountered; I left the workshop inspired and motivated to continue and expand my work.  Thanks Tim, and TYA-USA…for showcasing the possible in impossible.

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