Tuesday, November 25, 2008

If you love what you do, you'll never spend another day at work

For more than fifteen years I’ve been with the Deaf Access Program at Imagination Stage, and I love what I do! Back in 1993 we had a group of Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing teenagers, a meager budget, Tuesday night rehearsals, painted cubes for a set, props that included umbrellas with cookie cutters hanging from them, lights that were either on or off, a dedicated group of staff, a lot of fun, and of course an outstanding production.

In 1998 we received our first of 3 three-year grants from the U.S. Department of Education, and everything started to change for the better. We had enough teenagers to create two Deaf Access companies, and enough funding to hire professional set, sound, and costume designers, and of course we still had Tuesday (and now also Wednesday) night rehearsals, a dedicated group of staff, a lot of fun, and two outstanding productions. We also brought in professional guest artists (deaf and hearing) to meet with our teens, to show them the professional world of theatre outside of our doors.
In 2003 we moved into a brand new theatre in downtown Bethesda, where our students performed Pinocchio Commedia for their debut in the new space. We added lighting designers to our professional roster, and continued to grow. We partnered with well-known children’s author Phyllis Limbacher Tildes who had been inspired by our Deaf Access Company to write The Garden Wall about two children, one Deaf and one hearing, who become friends. We added programming for middle-school deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students who were clamoring to work together. All while we continued to be inspired by our students, encouraged by our audiences and enthused from one another.

In 2008 our funding opportunities ran out. The program has changed, but our enthusiasm remains strong. When the economy picks up, and our funding becomes stable, we will still be here, loving what we do.

By Wendy Calhoun

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Monday, November 17, 2008

"There are two alternatives when dealing with a disability; either it dominates you or you dominate it."

Poet David Wright (who is deaf) might not have ever met Dame Evelyn Glennie, but his statement could easily define her outlook on deafness. Determined from a young age that people around her needed to see her for what she could do instead of for what she couldn’t hear, Evelyn’s story is a true inspiration to all of us.

Seeing the person first, and not the disability, is at the forefront of Imagination Stage’s Access programs. Since 1988, Imagination Stage has worked with members of our community who have disabilities and pioneered a number of innovative and successful approaches to inclusion.

Recently Imagination Stage’s Access program was selected as one of five organizations nationwide to become a national affiliate of Kids Included Together (KIT). As an affiliate, we have embarked on a two-year partnership which includes opportunities for training and consultation to both Imagination Stage staff and faculty on a regular basis with regards to inclusion supports in the classroom for students with disabilities. In 2009 Imagination Stage staff will be trained as Inclusion trainers to then serve as a regional resource for inclusion of students in out-of-school time programs.

The process of Inclusion at Imagination Stage is much like that of the work of an orchestra – each part is vital to providing its own sound, and contributing to the success of the group as a whole. Our instruments are supportive parents, nurturing faculty & staff, and welcoming peers. Working together they create an environment that celebrates each person’s ability to participate in the arts, and seeing that magic happen week after week here at Imagination Stage is music to my ears.

By Lisa Agogliati, Deaf Access Program Director

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