Welcome to 2022 and our 1st article sharing ADCID developments, exploring new ways of working, and discovering how to Imagine Possibilities that go beyond what was though possible. 

This work into new developments made possible through funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Re-imagining in 2022

Re-imagining in 2022

Join the moment to re-imagine what is possible

Complexity and disability in the age of COVID

In the Come to the Edge Cafe at the Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, John from March of Dimes Brain Injury Unit -a man wearing a white shirt and white chef's cap sitting in wheelchair - speaks to audience member wearing blue shirt as she picks out her fabric pizza from table covered in fabric food
St. Catharines Performing Arts Centre, 2019 Come to the Edge

Moving into another decade of Radical Inclusion

For ten years, Aiding Dramatic Change in Development has been empowering and networking adults with advanced cerebral palsy—or in co-founder Stephen Sillett’s words, “co-creating inspirational experiences where people can explore and influence the world around them.” Every year since 2017, ADCID has presented Come to the Edge, where members of the Imagining Possibilities Movement bring their new form of world building into a public immersive theatre event. Here the audience is inspired to actively participate, and here participants can bring their dreamscapes to life and share them with the able-bodied public. In late 2019, Stephen had planned to expand productions to Hamilton and St. Catherines. Then COVID hit.

In the Come to the Edge cafe at the Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines, John from the March of Dimes Brain Injury unit sits in front of fabric pizza oven and talks to audience members (including man in red shirt and wheelchair user) who are choosing their fabric pizzas from table covered in fabric food
Although the repeated lockdowns have been difficult for everyone, they pose special barriers to community members living with complex disabilities. For instance, one participant has only had one hour of family visitation per week, through a glass barrier. Otherwise she, like her peers, has been sequestered from the public interactions. Stephen’s colleagues with cerebral palsy have also been impacted in other ways: one care home has converted its break room—previously used by residents—into PPE storage. These practical barriers posed by COVID have also made organizing in-person workshops and performances all but impossible.
Custom Cave space made in Gather Town for intimate conversations

“They had a looping scene—just a pre-framed scene that the actor was in. So for instance, you’re currently sitting on this sofa by the fireplace. So this would be—the camera would be locked off, and then they would do a looping action in that Zoom room… I thought, ‘that’s a nice way of doing it.’” 

Faced with the difficulty of engaging the public while keeping participants safe from COVID, Stephen turned to collaborative online spaces to facilitate his method. He found some inspiration in the practitioner events by ImaginAction, a global community of participatory, immersive and socially engaged artists; he also looked into the online performances by ZU-UK, a leading immersive theatre team, and participated in some of their innovative online Game Show. He took a master class with a UK theatre production company called Punch Drunk, which offered advice on using Zoom as an immersive theatrical medium. “They had a scene—just a pre-framed scene that the actor was in. So for instance, you’re currently sitting on this sofa by the fireplace. So this would be—the camera would be locked off, and then they would do a looping action in that Zoom room. And they had five breakout rooms. And the person could go between the five breakout rooms and see the different scenes—between. So that, that was nice. I thought, ‘that’s a nice way of doing it.’” Still, Zoom has its limitations: its intelligent voice detection system cannot be used by ADCID’s non-verbal participants.
Green Screen image for Fabric Food in Come to the Edge Speakeasy
Concept Art for Food for the Edge
Come to the Edge Green Screen Art
Concept Art for Silent Stones

Another source of inspiration has been Complexity Weekend, an online participatory community of complexity scientists, consultants, programmers, entrepreneurs and complexity science enthusiasts. One ADCID staff member, Frank Hull, has co-presented at Complexity Weekend on the topic of Disability Arts. Débora Barrientos (contributor to ImaginAction and Social Presencing Theatre) has also co-presented with Stephen, teaming up to explore novel facilitation methods. At Complexity Weekend, Stephen also met Alex Barnes, a Toronto-based accredited investor who is currently helping ADCID.

“…one thing I like about Gather.Town is… you’re looking from above. And then what that does is, it starts to make activities which you would do in a room, be like you’re in the room.”

Stephen’s collaborations at Complexity Weekend also led him to Gather.Town, a social media platform with attractive pixel graphics which draws its user interface from 32-bit video games. As the theory behind his productions is inherently spatial, Stephen instantly saw the potential for use: “I’ve actually facilitated session in Gather using Map of Meaningful Life and Work in Gather.Town—‘cause one thing I like about Gather.Town is, you can sort of—as if you’re looking from above. And then what that does is, it starts to make activities which you would do in a room, be like you’re in the room.” Now that ADCID is able to engage with the Community-building grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Stephen has scaled collaborations with videographers, illustrators, animators, green screen artists and dramatic producers to bring his colleagues’ approaches in an immersive digital realm. Gather.Town has provided Stephen with a practical solution to COVID: if he can no longer bring his participants to their productions, he will push the hybrid virtual platforms to bring productions to his participants.

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