In 2008, Jenny co-founder of ADCID attended the ISAAC – International Conference in Montreal with her sister Christine who uses Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC). They were inspired by the accomplishments of other AAC users at the conference.
Consequently, Jenny and Christine wondered if it would be possible to engage groups of AAC users in creating participatory drama. Christine was part of the Communication Enrichment Class at North Yorkers Disabled Persons in Toronto. Jenny spoke with her partner Stephen, and they approached the Class to see if they would like to explore the possibilities.
WoulD it be possible?
Stephen and Jenny had used non-verbal dialogue along with arts and theatre to address community issues in South Africa. Could these approaches be adapted to enable this community who use alternative communication, to create art and stories together?
Our First Explorations
A 2-year exploration phase was funded by the Ontario Arts Council. We explored different approaches and received ongoing feedback from the class and Cathy Samuelson, the executive director of North Yorkers Disabled Persons.
There was interest to take this further. We explored different approaches and received ongoing feedback from the participants, and Cathy Samuelson the Executive Director of North Yorkers Disabled Persons.
After Creating the Come to the Edge film, we organized an event where we all watched the video on our project together.
Through our Imagining Possibilities Project, we have developed a style of creative improvisation that enables community members with complex physical and communication challenges to express their ideas and create stories as an ensemble, in a way that is responsive to their physical realities. We call this Envisioned Scenography. We have developed a performance form where audience members are deeply engaged in the contextual environment that is created by the facilitation, community performers, and Envisioned Scenography. Participants direct the created world, which is facilitated through a special facilitation process that is continually evolving alongside the Envisioned Scenography. Members of the audience who use Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) can also take on an active role and become involved in the story.
We see influence as a deeper level of engagement, beyond inclusion. In all our arts engagement work we structure and seek opportunities where community members go beyond “participating” and have real influence in the creation or discovery process. We use spatial non-verbal processes and metaphor to explore ideas, share experiences, and facilitate dialogue. We nurture personal growth and a sense of inclusion, and build community.