The Art of Accessibility

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Blog

by RaChelle Schmidt, 
Director of Performance and Partnerships PHAME
The Art of Accessibility

PHAME actors in rehearsal hall with Director Melory Mirashrafi, Sapience by Diana Burbano. Photo by RaChelle Schmidt .

Our goal at PHAME is to help our students find those opportunities to take their artistic pursuits to the next level, and to do that we need great arts partners who are open and willing to explore ways to make artistic participation accessible to everyone. I feel that we have that partner in Artists Repertory Theatre and I look forward to working together to create more artistic and creative opportunities for your students.  

In June of 2023, I had the pleasure of accompanying two PHAME students who were invited to be actors as part of the Artists Rep’s Sapience workshop with playwright Diana Burbano. Going into any new process with students who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities can be daunting at times.  The arts have a certain amount of ablism and gatekeeping built into what we have come to know as “standard processes”. Often, when allowed into a creative space, there can be an air of tokenism involved, that doesn’t allow our students to participate as much as observed. As a teacher and theater artist, I can honestly say that the week that we all spent in that room working was one of the warmest, most welcoming, creative, and professional rooms I’ve ever been a part of.

Workshop Director, Melory Mirashrafi (ART’s Artistic & Producing Associate), shared, “It was an honor to collaborate with PHAME Academy to bring Diana Burbano’s Sapience to life. The partnership between these two organizations runs deep, from PHAME’s time as an ArtsHub company, to ART’s Mercury Company, where PHAME students led the way to craft stunning world-premiere short films. This workshop was a beautiful example of how joyful and necessary it is to center lived-experience in storytelling––I believe it can always be this way.”

Our students immediately became contributing artists to the process. Working along-side a professional playwright, director, and actors, our students got to experience what it truly means to be “in the room” and have a genuine role in making theater come to life. I could go on about what it meant to me to get to watch our students gain this experience, but I want to share what Jane, the mother of one of Zack one of the Sapience actors had to say:

Zachary LOVED being included in this production.  All the way through. He is a go getter, willing to try anything, and I have always admired his fearlessness. So we were all excited by this amazing opportunity, and not surprised Zach was “all in.”  Each day he awoke with a “let’s do this!” attitude.  He was now “an actor!”  

Each evening you could see increasing pride and confidence that has stayed with him.

Taking a class like voice acting, for a young person whom we were told by doctors “may never talk” makes this whole experience even more sweet.

Proof that the arts are unifying, soul building, and don’t adhere to the expected.

Bravo to ART and PHAME, and we hope to do it again!

The Art of Accessibility
The Art of Accessibility

Sapience by Diana Burbano workshop rehearsal. Images provided by RaChelle Schmidt.