THE HUNTER HEARTBEAT PERFORMACE WORKSHOPS
Produced by Shakespeare at Notre Dame in Collaboration with South Bend Civic Theatre
The genesis of the project was a desire to create a theatrical experience specifically for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. Our work is guided by the research of renowned British theatre artist Kelly Hunter, author of the book “Shakespeare’s Heartbeat: Drama Games for Children with Autism.” Ms. Hunter, who has been working with theatre-based autism education for over 15 years, led our cast in a three-day master class earlier this year. Her exercises form the foundation of our performance-based workshop.
Each workshop will be based on Shakespeare’s play, As You Like It, and will last approximately 60 minutes. The exercises (or games) embedded in the performance are designed to bridge the gap between mind and body, to “encourage eye contact and facial expression, improve spatial awareness and language skills, and introduce [participants] to imaginative play.” During each performance-based workshop, we gather 5-10 participants into a circle, side-by-side with 5-10 actors. Each actor partners with a single participant through a series of games derived from specific moments in the play.
This distinctive methodology, called the Hunter Heartbeat Method, “uses Shakespeare's rhythmic language and physical gesture to release communicative blocks within [participants] with all levels of autism, including those who are non-verbal.” It has been widely celebrated and was recently studied in a three-year research project at Ohio State University. In the words of Ms. Hunter, “Shakespeare’s poetic definitions of seeing, thinking, and loving reveal the very processes that [individuals] with autism find so difficult to achieve.” To see the work in action, click HERE.
As a follow-up experience, South Bend Civic Theatre will also be offering a FREE sensory-friendly performance of our November production of As You Like It on Thursday, November 8 at 7:00pm. This performance will feature many of the actors from the Hunter Heartbeat workshops and allow patrons to enjoy a 90-minute version of As You Like It in an environment designed to accommodate special needs. The performance will include:
- Lower sound levels, especially for startling or loud sounds
- Lights on at a low level in the theater during the performance
- The expectation that patrons will talk and leave their seats during the performance
- Zones throughout the performance space for standing and movement
- Props and set elements designed to be touched before and during the performance.
- Designated quiet area connected to the performance space
- Concessions options limited to avoid strong smells (i.e. popcorn, coffee)
- Staff trained to be inviting and accommodating to families' needs
If you are interested in attending, please contact the South Bend Civic Theatre box office at (574) 234-1112 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are very limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Posted on September 19, 2018