Theatre gets more inclusive this year in Victoria, thanks to the Oak Bay-based Canadian College of Performing Arts.
The school launches a relaxed performance program for five shows in the 2018-2019 season.
“A relaxed performance is open and available to absolutely everyone, but it is designed specifically to be welcoming and sensitive to anyone who might find the usual theatre experience challenging,” says Caleb Marshall, managing artistic director.
While Relaxed Performances are open to everyone, they are chiefly geared to theatregoers living with conditions such as anxiety, autism, fear of the dark or disabilities of any kind.
Anyone with a disability or anxiety can benefit from a theatre experience with the slight changes to the front of house experience. For example, lights don’t dim fully, potentially startling light or sound cues are softened, and audience members can meet the cast ahead to be alerted to potential emotional outbursts or other disturbances in performance.
“The number one shift is the audience is given context for what they’re about to see,” Marshall says. “It’s really designed to make theatre as accessible as possible to the entire community. I think there’s been a portion of our community that’s not always felt welcomed in a traditional theatre environment.”
Relaxed performances debut on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m., during the run of Twelve Angry Jurors, Reginald Rose’s courtroom drama that opens the season at the CCPA Performance Hall, 1701 Elgin Rd.
“I firmly believe that theatre belongs to everyone,” said Marshall, who during his tenure as artistic executive director of Sudbury Theatre Centre first implemented the Relaxed Performances concept during its 2016-2017 season.
The season’s two Broadway musicals include Sweet Charity, scripted by Neil Simon, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and the big season finale at the McPherson Playhouse starting April 19, the Arthur Laurents-written and Leonard Bernstein-scored classic West Side Story.
Other tidbits this year include appearing again with the Naden Band and a new partnership with the municipality of Oak Bay on a public presentation of the Remembrance Day concert.
The college is also designing a crest to reflect its new identity, now 20 years in, and welcomes stakeholder feedback on what to include.
“Over the next few months we’ll be developing our academic seal if you will,” Marshall.
Visit ccpacanada.com to submit design ideas and view the full season schedule and ticket options.