Autism-Related Panels, Exhibition, Talkbacks Set for Tectonic's UNCOMMON SENSE at The Sheen Center

Autism-Related Panels, Exhibition, Talkbacks Set for Tectonic's UNCOMMON SENSE at The Sheen Center

Tectonic Theater Project and The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture have announced an array of programs to accompany the New York premiere of Uncommon Sense, written by Anushka Paris-Carter and Andy Paris and directed by Andy Paris, produced by Tectonic Theater Project under the artistic direction of Moisés Kaufman.

Inspired by true stories of people living on the autism spectrum, Uncommon Sense weaves together the four personal journeys of Dan, Jess, Moose, and Lali - as well as their families and friends - as it reveals our universal challenges with "difference," our desire to connect, and the lengths to which we go for the people we love. Uncommon Sense embraces all audiences, from those finally seeing their experiences reflected on the stage, to those peering into the autism world for the very first time.

Through a panel entitled Autism and Faith: Animating Hope (November 5), weekly Saturday talkbacks (November 4, 11, 18, 25), and the exhibit Autistic License: The Art of Pure Vision(on view October 25 - November 26), audiences and community members can further engage with the realities of life on the autism spectrum that are reflected in this revelatory work of theater. Elaborating on the unwaveringly inclusive core themes of the play-itself based on the emotional and sensory experiences of real individuals-the panel and talks will address major questions within the worlds of art and disability activism. These events will take on subjects from the intersection of faith and autism, to representation and inclusion in the arts, to the years-long evolution and production of this specific work of theater, while the exhibit will showcase artworks made by artists on the spectrum.

The run of Uncommon Sense itself will include two Relaxed Performances, intended to attract and accommodate individuals who may not be able to comply with traditional theater etiquette. At these performances, all noises, movements and behaviors are welcomed and supported. Additionally, there are slight modifications to technical elements, such as light and sound, to make the performance more comfortable for individuals with sensory sensitivities; noise cancelling headphones and fidgets/manipulatives will be made available as day-of supports. In advance of Relaxed Performances, preparatory materials such as an Uncommon Sense Social Narrative and Character Guide will be made available to those attending. These will take place on November 11 at 2pm and November 19 at 3pm. An American Sign Language performance will take place on November 16, 2017, at 8pm, provided by Hands On.

Autistic License: The Art of Pure Vision, presented with Pure Vision Arts, fills the Gallery at The Sheen Center with works by artists on the autism spectrum. In keeping with Pure Vision Arts' mission, this exhibit provides people with autism and developmental disabilities opportunities for artistic expression, and builds public awareness of their important creative contributions.

Every Saturday afternoon in November, following matinee performances of Uncommon Sense, The Sheen Center's Loreto Theater will host talks with a range of individuals with diverse relationships to autism and disability awareness.

On November 4, Christine Bruno, the Disability Advocate for the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts and Bluelaces Theater Company-founder Alison Mahoney will join accessibility consultant Philip Dallmann to discuss the state of diversity and inclusion in the arts.

Following the relaxed performance matinee on November 11, select cast members will participate in a Q&A moderated by Miranda Appelbaum, Assistant Director of Accessibility & Guest Services at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The following week, on November 18, Dave Osmundsen, playwright of Stupid, Fat, Ugly and Something for Sondra and Darci Picoult, screenwriter for Mother of George and author of the play Jayson with a Y, will join moderator Amy Jensen, performer in Up and Away (produced by Lincoln Center Education and Trusty Sidekick Theatre for people on the spectrum and their families), in a talk on the portrayal of autism in theater and the media.

These discussions will culminate with a final talk on November 25, that looks back on the show itself-how it came into existence, and how its creators applied multi-disciplinary techniques to their sense-rich depictions of the ways autistic people view and feel the world around them.

On November 5 at 5pm in the Sheen Center's Loreto Theater, a group of professionals from distinct fields will gather to participate in a ticketed panel on autism and faith-focusing on inclusion, compassion, neurodiversity and the role of faith among Christians and the autism community. The Autism and Faith: AnimatingHope panel will feature Janice Benton, the Executive Director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability; Dr. Mary Beth Walsh, member of the Executive Advisory Board for the Office of Pastoral Ministries with Persons with Disabilities of the Archdiocese of Newark; Louis Henry Mitchell, the Creative Director of Character Design of Sesame Workshop and the designer of Julia, the Muppet with autism; and William Stropnicky. (Tickets are $10, or free with the purchase of a full price seat for the 3pm matinee.)

Tectonic Theater Project recently announced the diverse cast of Uncommon Sense, with performers coming into the production with a range of experiences with the subject - some are educators, some are actors who themselves are on the spectrum, and some have learned about the specifics and variables of life with autism through their work on this project.

The cast features Oberon K.A. Adjepong (Party People, Pericles); Jessica Almasy (A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes, Enjoy), co-founder of beloved theater company the TEAM; Michi Barall (writer of Peer Gynt and the Norwegian Hapa Band); longtime Tectonic collaborator Scott Barrow (33 Variations, The Laramie Project, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, The Dead Man's Curve); Purva Bedi (Idiot, Veil'd); Andrew Duff (Where Are We Now); the TEAM co-founder Jill Frutkin (Crush); and Brian Hastert (Of Good Stock, A Future Perfect), also a co-founder of the TEAM.

Performances of Uncommon Sense take place October 25-30, November 1, 3-4, 7-11, 14-18, 21, 24 & 25 at 8pm; November 2 & 19 at 7pm; November 5, 12, 19 & 26 at 3pm; and November 4, 11, 18, 22, 24 & 25 at 2pm. Critics are welcome October 30 and November 1 at 8pm for an official opening November 2 at 7pm.

Tickets ($69-$89) are available online at www.sheencenter.org, by phone 212.925.2812, or in person at The Sheen Center. Box office hours are Monday through Friday, 11am - 5pm, and an hour before performances. Student rush tickets, which cannot be purchased in advance, are available for $25 at the box office 30 minutes prior to each performance (with a valid student ID). To purchase tickets in the ASL block of seats for the interpreted November 16 performance, contact Hands On at info@handson.org or visit their website, www.handson.org.


GALLERY EXHIBITION

Autistic License: The Art of Pure Vision
October 25, 2017 - November 26, 2017
Opening Reception: October 25, 5:30-7:30pm
The Gallery at the Sheen Center
18 Bleecker Street

This exhibition is funded by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Pure Vision Arts (PVA) was founded in 2002 by The Shield Institute, a not-for-profit human-service agency that educates and supports New Yorkers with autism and other developmental disabilities. Pure Vision Arts is New York's first specialized art studio and exhibition space for people with developmental disabilities. PVA is staffed by trained professionals with backgrounds in art education, fine arts, and art therapy who provide mentoring and support to the artists who attend.

PANEL DISCUSSION

Autism and Faith: Animating Hope
Sunday, November 5, 2017, 5pm
$10* (Free Event Ticket with the purchase of a Full Price Seat for the 3pm Matinee)
Participants: Janice Benton, Executive Director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability; Dr. Mary Beth Walsh, Board Member of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment; Louis Henry Mitchell, Creative Director of Character Design of Sesame Workshop; William Stropnicky

About the Participants:

Janice L. Benton, Executive Director of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), guides initiatives which promote participation of persons with disabilities in the Catholic Church. She speaks throughout the U.S, and as a guest on Catholic radio. She consults with the U.S. Catholic bishops on life and disability issues, and spoke at the 2014 Vatican international symposium on autism and in 2016 presented two posters at the Vatican-sponsored Living Fully 2016 conference. In 2012, Janice received national awards from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors and the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, USA. She is a professed Secular Franciscan, wife and mother of two adult children.

AsCreative Director of Character Design at Sesame Workshop, Louis Henry Mitchell directs and oversees all aspects of character art for Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind Sesame Street. In his 17 years at Sesame Workshop, Mitchell has designed the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons and directed Sesame Street Muppet photo shoots. Prior to holding this position, Mitchell freelanced for the organization since 1992. He uses drawing, painting, and sculpting in his work, and creates and art directs in traditional and digital media. Mitchell attended The School of Visual Arts, and The Art Students League. Mitchell resides in Rego Park, Queens, with his wife Yvonne.

Mary Beth (MB) Walsh is the mother of an older teenager significantly affected by autism, and a typically developing college student. She is an alumna of Haverford College (B.A.), the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (M.A.), and Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York (M.Phil. Ph.D.). She currently works as a peer counselor with MOM2MOM, New Jersey based, peer-support help-line for mothers of individuals with special needs offered by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. Much of her advocacy work for individuals with autism has focused on inclusion in faith communities. For two years she served as Co-Chair of the Autism Task Force of the National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities, and continues to serve on the Executive Advisory Board for the Office of Pastoral Ministries with Persons with Disabilities of the Archdiocese of Newark. Walsh is co-editor of the resource Journey into Community: Including Individuals with Autism in Faith Communities, published by the Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities. Her article Autism Culture, Church: From Disruption to Hope was recently published in Disability & Religion (2016). Walsh's advocacy also focuses on the right of individuals with autism to evidence-based interventions. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT). She is the author of the article The Top Ten Reasons the Child with Autism Deserves ABA. (Behavior Analysis in Practice: 2011)

SATURDAY TALKBACKS

November 4
Evolution of Diversity & Inclusion in the Arts
Moderated by: Philip Dallmann, accessibility consultant
Panelists: Christine Bruno, Disability Advocate for Inclusion for the Arts, Alison Mahoney, founder of Bluelaces Theater Company, Others TBD

About the Participants:

Philip Dallmann is an accessibility consultant and Manager of TDF Accessibility Programs. At TDF he is instrumental in the execution of TDF's 60+ open captioned performances, 40+ audio described performances and five autism-friendly performances on and Off-Broadway each season. He is also key liaison for TDF's national captioning and autism programs. In 2013 Dallmann created the autism-friendly restaurant partnerships, training restaurants in the theatre district to welcome patrons with autism on the day of TDF's autism-friendly performances. Dallmann was also part of the team that developed and launched TheatreAccess.NYC, which is a one-stop shop for all of Broadway's accessibility information. In 2015 Dallmann piloted integrating volunteers on the spectrum into TDF's autism-friendly performances, which creates more opportunities to exercise social and job skills for the autism community. In 2017 he was part of the team that presented the first accessibility symposium for nonprofit theatres in NYC. Dallmann has presented across the country on a variety of accessibility topics including volunteer training/recruitment, the evolution of sensory-friendly programming, how to handle the unexpected in access, and more. Recently, Philip partnered with Broadway Dance Center and ALMA NYC for New York's first sensory friendly dance party. He continues to write on all accessibility topics at his blog www.philipdallmann.com. Dallmann received a BA in Theatre from George Mason University and an MS in Autism Access from Penn State University.

Christine Bruno is a disability advocate who joined Inclusion in the Arts in 2005 and has a varied background as an actor, director and coach. She has represented Inclusion in the Arts at symposiums, forums, panels, resource events and radio outlets across the country and internationally at film and arts festivals in Melbourne, Australia and Manchester, England. A proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA, Christine is the Chair of the New York Local SAG-AFTRA PWD Committee, a member of the SAG-AFTRA National Committee for Performers with Disabilities, the SAG-AFTRA/AMPTP PWD Task Force, Actors' Equity EEO Committee and a member of The Actors Studio. She has an MFA in Acting and Directing from the New School and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Skidmore College, where she received a BA in Theatre and Political Science. As a performer and director, Christine has worked throughout the U.S., across the U.K. and in Australia. Her selected credits include her one-woman show, Screw You, Jimmy Choo!; the world-premiere musicals The Ugly Girl and Raspberry, The Glass Menagerie, Jose Rivera's adaption of The Maids, TV's Law & Order, the independent films iCreep, Flatbush Luck, This is Where We Live, and the award-winning short Trouble on High.

Alison Mahoney is a theatermaker, educator, and administrator with a focus on accessible theater for and with individuals with developmental disabilities. She is founding artistic director of Bluelaces Theater Company, which creates immersive theatrical experiences for this population. Alison currently works as the Accessibility Manager at Lincoln Center, and as Project Manager for the Museum Access Consortium's Supporting Transitions project, which aims to increase opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities in cultural institutions. She also works extensively with CO/LAB Theater Group and Trusty Sidekick Theater Company.

November 11
Q & A with the Cast
Moderated by: Miranda Appelbaum, Assistant Director of Accessibility & Guest Services at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Panelists: Cast Members including Jessica Almasy, Michi Barall, Scott Barrow, Andrew Duff, and Jill Frutkin; others TBD
*Reminder that this is a Relaxed Performance

About Miranda Appelbaum

Miranda Appelbaum is the Assistant Director of Accessibility & Guest Services at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In that role, she implements accommodations and initiatives to increase accessibility, both physically and programmatically, for all visitors to Lincoln Center's campus, including initiatives to engage individuals with dementia and their caregivers and job-readiness programs for young people with developmental disabilities. Prior to this role, Miranda launched and managed access programs and resources for students, adults and families with disabilities at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. She is actively involved in the accessibility field in New York, as the former Chair and current Steering Committee Member of the Museum Access Consortium, and a member of the New York City Museum Educator's Roundtable Access Peer Group, the Long Island Children's Museum LICM4All Advisory Council, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum's Access Advisory Council. She served as the New American Voices Reading Series Adviser for Queens Theatre for their Disability Series in 2016-2017. She has presented at local and national conferences on accessibility. Miranda has a B.A. in Anthropology and English from the University of Vermont and an M.A. in Museum Studies from New York University.

November 18
Autism in Theater & the Media
Moderated by: Amy Jensen, performer in Up and Away with Lincoln Center Education and Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company
Panelists: Dave Osmundsen, playwright of Stupid, Fat, Ugly and Something for Sondra; Darci Picoult, screenwriter for Mother of George and author of the play Jayson with a Y.

About the Participants:

Amy Jensen performed in Up and Away, an immersive production designed specifically for young audiences on the autism spectrum, which was commissioned by Lincoln Center Education and created by Trusty Sidekick Theater Company (look for it in the 2018 Big Umbrella Festival). She has also worked with the New York Neo-Futurists, Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, Spencer Lott, Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant, the Arkansas New Play Festival, Southern Writers Festival, and the Colorado New Play Summit. This year she's an Object Movement puppetry resident at The Center at West Park and the LMDA Dramaturgy-Driven Grant recipient. Amy has family members on the autism spectrum. www.amy-jensen.com

Dave Osmundsen is a New Jersey-based playwright with a Bachelor's in Theatre Studies from Montclair State University. His work has been seen and developed at Manhattan Repertory Theatre, In the Water Theatre Company, and the New American Theatre in LA. His one-act, A Firework Unexploded, was recently published in the inaugural issue of The Dionysian. In addition to playwriting, he has also written for StageBuddy and TheatreIsEasy and has had short stories published on ScholarsAndRogue.com.

Darci Picoult's is a playwright and screenwriter whose plays include Jayson with a Y (New Group) and Lil's 90th (Long Wharf Theatre). Her film Mother of George, starring Danai Gurira, was developed and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and released by Oscilloscope. It was named by the National Board of Review as one of the top ten indie films of the year. Her film Where is Kyra?, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Keifer Sutherland, premiered at Sundance in 2017 and will be released in the early part of the new year.

November 25
The Evolution of Uncommon Sense
Panelists: Anushka Paris-Carter, Uncommon Sense Co-Author, Andy Paris, Uncommon Sense Co-Author and Director
Moisés Kaufman, Artistic Director of Tectonic Theater Project

About the Participants:

Moisés Kaufman, Artistic Director of the Tectonic Theater Project,is a Tony- and Emmy-nominated director and playwright. He most recently directed a critically lauded production of Bent at the Mark Taper Forum. Prior Broadway credits: The Heiress, 33 Variations (which he also wrote) with Jane Fonda, which received five Tony nominations; Rajiv Joseph's Pulitzer Prize finalist Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams; the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play I Am My Own Wife. His plays Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and The Laramie Project are among the most performed plays in America over the last decade. Kaufman also co-wrote and directed the lm adaptation of e Laramie Project for HBO, which received two Emmy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writer. He is currently directing and writing a new Broadway-bound adaptation of Bizet's Carmen with Grammy-winning composer Arturo O'Farrill. He is a Guggenheim Playwrighting Fellow and has multiple projects in various stages of development.

Anushka Paris-Carter started working as an actor on television at age 11. She studied devising at Australia's National Theater and the Swinburne Institute of Technology. While at Swinburne, she studied with Phillip Gaullier. Her other work in Australia includes St. Feets for St. Martins, Library Stories at The Malt House, Hiroshima for the Melbourne Spoletto Festival, and Janus for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Paris-Carter's New York credits include Carson Krietzer's Self Defense, Valerie Shoots' Andy, Kirk Bromely's Icarus and Aria, Bocca for Target Margin, Basil Twist's Symphonie Fantastique, Mephisto for Reverie, Lucie Tiberghein's The Quiet Room, Gwen John directed by Leigh Fondakowski, Family Running For Mr. Whippy directed by Elyse Singer, and Marcia Jean Kurtz's Between Two Worlds. Her New York film and TV credits include Ed Bowe's Picture Book and hosting X-Games for ESPN. She is a graduate of both the Public's Shakespeare Lab and the Naraopa Summer Writing Program. Her first play is Fan Makers Inquistion, also written with Andy Paris.

Andy Paris has made a career of developing new works for the stage and screen, including The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later, The Laramie Project (Emmy nomination), Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, by Moisés Kaufman, Or, by Liz Duffy Adams, Lucie Tiberghien's The Quiet Room, Innocents by Rachel Dickstein, The Talking Band's The Necklace, Matthew Maguire's Phaedre and Deb Margolin's Indelible Flesh. As a writer/director: Laramie: 10, Going Public, an original play about our education system; The American Family at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival; The Fanmaker's Inquisition, co-adapted with his lovely wife Anushka Paris-Carter from the novel by Rikki Ducornet; Goldstar Ohio, which he directed at The Cleveland Public Theatre; Migration at the Experimental Theatre Wing at NYU; Faith Pilger's The Stages of Burning; and The Corporate Carnival, for The Women's Project, in which he also performed at the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center. Andy has performed in countless other plays in New York, regionally, and in Europe. Regionally, he has been seen at Denver Center, The Huntington, Playmaker's Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Rep. Theatre of St. Louis, Hartford Stage, Theatre Virginia, Berkeley Rep and La Jolla Playhouse. Favorite roles include Berowne in Love's Labours Lost, Keppler in Richard Goodwin's Two Men of Florence, directed by Edward Hall, and all of the male roles in A Sleeping Country by Melanie Marnich, directed by Mark Rucker. Film and TV credits include Laramie (HBO) and "Law & Order" (NBC). He has also been the recipient of two AUDIE Awards and a Voice Arts Award for his audiobook narrations. Andy was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a graduate of NYU.

ACCESSIBILITY

ASL PERFORMANCE
Date: November 16, 2017
Time: 8pm, evening performance
Interpreted performance provided by Hands On ; tickets available at handson.org

RELAXED PERFORMANCES
November 11, 2pm Matinee Performance
November 19, 3pm Matinee Performance

Uncommon Sense will be presented in an inclusive, judgment-free environment. In addition to offering scheduled Relaxed Performances, Tectonic and The Sheen Center welcome audience members of all abilities to all performances. At no point will anyone be shushed or asked to leave due to noises, movements, or behaviors related to a cognitive/developmental disability.


Tectonic Theater Project is a not-for-profit theater company based in New York City. Guided by founder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman, Tectonic's work has been seen by millions worldwide. In its twenty-five-year history the company has created and staged over twenty plays and musicals, including Kaufman's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Laramie Project (written by Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project company), Doug Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, and Kaufman's Tony Award-winning 33 Variations, which starred Jane Fonda. Mr. Kaufman also co-wrote and directed the HBO film adaptation of The Laramie Project, for which he received Emmy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Writer.

Tectonic Theater Project is a company of storytellers with a unique method of creating theater, striving to bridge the gap between art and life. All too often, the lives and stories of people impacted by inequality are invisible to those whose are not. Tectonic develops and produces plays that amplify the voices of underrepresented communities; by shining a light on these communities, the company fosters conversations leading to a more just society. As Kaufman states, "Art is a great prism through which we can understand history and current events." Tectonic crafts plays using the company's trademarked theater-making method, Moment Work, and through a rigorous process of research, writing, workshops, and collaboration in a laboratory environment.

In 2009 President Obama invited the company to witness the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act at the White House, recognizing Tectonic's contribution to the national dialogue around LGBTQ hate crimes. President Obama awardEd Kaufman the National Medal of Arts for "his powerful contributions to American Theater," and with appreciation for how the company "continues to move audiences with its bold portrayals of contemporary social issues."

For more information, visit tectonictheaterproject.org.

The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is a forum to showcase works highlighting the true, the good, and the beautiful. Located downtown on historic Bleecker Street, the Sheen Center is a vibrant new arts organization that focuses on theater, music, film, and talk. A project of the Archdiocese of New York, the state-of-the-art complex encompasses the 270-seat Loreto Theater, equipped with five-camera high-definition livestream capability and a multi-track recording studio; the 80-seat Black Box Theater; four rehearsal studios; and an art gallery. It was named after the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, best known for his popular, inspirational radio and TV ministry in the 1950s and 60s.

Helmed by Executive Director William Spencer Reilly and Managing Director Andrew Levine, The Sheen Center has presented hundreds of performances since opening in fall 2015. Production highlights include the New York premiere of Bill Cain's drama 9 Circles; the annual Justice Film Festival; red carpet film premieres including Mel Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge, Captive with David Oyelowo, and Risen with Joseph Fiennes; interviews with luminaries such as John Lithgow, Brian Dennehy, John Patrick Shanley, and David Mamet; talks by NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, comedian Jim Gaffigan, former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Det. Steven McDonald, and Bishop Robert Barron; concerts by Norah Jones, Michael Cerveris, Kate Baldwin; and more.

For more information, visit www.sheencenter.org.

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