Have you ever wondered what is so special about inclusive theater? You've seen our posts, pictures, and maybe even a show, but here's the inside scoop as to what we think sets inclusive theater apart from the rest.
1. Inclusive theater brings together people of varying abilities.
Barrier-Free inclusive theater companies are comprised of approximately 25 people. Our actors are self-advocates who self-identify as having down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, autism, and/or developmental disabilities. Our actors work alongside our teaching artists who also act in our shows. In addition, Barrier-Free has a partnership with McDaniel College to welcome student interns into our companies. Our interns are pursuing a variety of degrees that include but are not limited to, psychology, theater, education, counseling, or biology (genetics). Our student interns have the opportunity to earn credit through their internships with Barrier-Free.
When our company members come together in an inclusive space, we are all equal contributors to the inclusive theater process. Barrier-Free uses equitable practices to ensure all of our actors can succeed to their highest potential while working together towards our final production goal of bringing our show to the stage.
2. No idea is too crazy.
At Barrier-Free our tagline is "Create. Express. Achieve." for a reason. The musicals our inclusive theater companies create are all original. We spend many weeks of our Inclusive Theater season exploring "improvisational acting." This means that our actors work together in small groups to create scenes. This scene-work begins with the instruction to "make an improv scene with a beginning, middle, and end." There is no given direction as to what setting, characters, or plot elements to include as our director is waiting to see what ideas our actors bring to the creative table.
As these scenes are created, we discover common, reoccurring ideas. For example, we may see many scenes taking place on an island, or in outer space. Once we've determined a setting, we explore these in our improv scenes. We start to see actors connect to certain characters, and we encourage them to explore and develop these ideas.
After we have settings and characters, we begin to explore plot lines. Our improv scenes now have more direction from the director. For example, the direction may be, "Your scene begins with lost travelers arriving to an island, finish the scene with your improv group." Every step of the improvisational acting is intentional and leads us to creating our final show.
Once we've landed on a setting, characters, and plot our director brings the ideas to life with a final written script, and our music composer creates the original songs and scores for the shows. Next stop - rehearsing with our script!
3. Social skill work is embedded into the inclusive theater process.
Inclusive theater rehearsals begin with everyone sitting in a circle, greeting one another. When you enter the space, before rehearsal starts you'll hear the room buzzing with conversations and excitement. These organic conversations are proof of the relationships and connections formed between actors. When rehearsal officially starts, we check-in about our weeks and share updates before warming-up. Check-ins are a time to practice conversation skills such as active listening, asking follow-up questions, and sharing responses of support for one another.
Each rehearsal has built-in break time, another perfect opportunity for actors to socialize, take pictures, and spend time forming friendships and connections. Barrier-Free teaching artists use this time to ensure any newcomers are included into conversations, and help to facilitate social connection between actors. Just by engaging with one another during rehearsals, our actors are learning and enhancing their social skills.
Want even more social-based programming? Barrier-Free offers a monthly social club outing where individuals of diverse abilities come together to enjoy all the community has to offer, foster new friendships, and develop a sense of confidence and independence in society.
4. We have an incredible founder - Sally Bailey.
Barrier-Free's Creative Director, Britt Burr, earned her M.A. in Drama Therapy from Kansas State University. While there, Britt studied under Sally Bailey RDT/BCT, MSW, MFA, and learned the Barrier-Free Theatre method. Sally has dedicated her career to using drama therapy methods to serve recovering substance abusers and individuals with disabilities. She now serves the field in her role as Director of Graduate Studies in Theatre and Director of the Drama Therapy Program, by educating future drama therapists on her Barrier-Free Theatre methodology.
After graduating from K State, Britt returned home to Maryland and, with permission and continued guidance from Sally Bailey, brought Barrier-Free Theatre to her local community. In 2019, "Barrier-Free Theatre Company of Maryland" became "Barrier-Free" you know today, as we expanded our staffing, programming, and mission.
While we have grown and expanded through the years, Barrier-Free will always be thankful for our roots and Sally Bailey for laying the foundation of this incredible work.
Learn more at Sally's website http://www.dramatherapycentral.com/
5. Our actors bring their character ideas to life.
Have you ever wanted to be 1920's flapper? What about a permanent vacationer? Inclusive theater is the perfect outlet for all of actor's creative desires. As we develop a setting, our actors create a character that they enjoy. During the improvisational acting portion of our process, the actors and staff work on character development through their improv scenes. Our actors make intentional decisions about their character's personality, actions, and purpose in our show.
Oh, and the character's names - chosen by the actors! As we say in our core values - no idea is too wacky, "we welcome it all at Barrier-Free!"
6. The curtain call.
Ask any actor, and they'll tell you that the curtain call (when the actors take their bows) is very special to conclusion of a show. If you've never experienced a curtain call for an inclusive theater production - you're missing out and we recommend adding it to your bucket list immediately.
Individuals with disabilities fight very hard for visibility, equality, and equitable treatment in society. At our inclusive theater performances, our actors have the opportunity to show how truly talented they are as they sing, dance, and perform their hearts out on stage! When our actors come center stage to take their bows, and hear the audience's applause, all for them, the reaction is priceless. In that moment, our actors have been seen, heard, and appreciated for their abilities and work. It is truly a magical moment.
7. Inclusive theater fills the heart.
Our actors spend 7 months in our inclusive theater seasons, working to bring our shows to life.
This means 7 months of:
Trust us... each inclusive theater rehearsal or show will leave your heart filled the brim with hope, love, and inspiration.
So... if these seven reasons why inclusive theater is the best type of theater still haven't convinced you, we invite you to come check out our work for yourself. We have a feeling that if you just come once, you'll be hooked. So what's stopping you? Find out about volunteering opportunities on our website or contact us at info@BarrierFreeMD.com to get started.
“Get those creative juices pumping!” said Lisa Feltz, owner and operator of Meltdown DiY Art Studio, as she welcomed each social clubber into her shop.
Prior to starting her own business, Lisa was a special educator in the school system for many years. And her experience shows! One-by-one she greeted each participant with a smile and engaged in a conversation that was seamless and unique to them—guiding them in choosing the best colors that fit their style.
Then, we stepped right up for a brief introduction to pottery glazing 101! “No lights on darks. Darks on lights.” Got it. “Glaze is not paint. It will dry differently.” Understood.
We were led back to our table and we glazed our bowls, plates, and mugs. Besides Lisa offering her continued expertise and support throughout the glazing process, the best part of the night was simply sitting, painting, and talking.
That is the purpose of social club, right?! Conversations are scary sometimes. What do I say? How do I start? What do we even talk about? Sometimes connections are hard to make. Luckily, activities bring us together and help bridge that gap!
“What are you painting?!”
“Hey! That looks cool!”
“Can I borrow that color?”
“You’re making a superman symbol?! I love superman!”
Social clubs, quite literally, give us something to talk about! From there, we can use these skills and apply them to the real world. Plus, it’s fun!
Before you know it, the room is filled with chatter and laughter—with companionship and
The only sad part of all of this was that it had to end! Plus, we had to practice our patience
waiting to see our finished product after they were heated in the kiln!
All in all, an amazing social club!
Barrier-Free highly recommends Meltdown DiY Art Studio in Eldersburg!
Thank you, Lisa, for a great experience!
What a long, fun-filled day we had at Hershey Park on Saturday! After meeting at the Westminster Community Center, the 20 Barrier-Free social clubbers piled into staff cars and rode to Hershey Park!
The first stop everyone made? The Chocolate World Tour, of course! The groups divided and followed the journey of how Hershey's chocolate is made--from cocoa beans to shipping. The ride included singing cows, talking chocolate, and a small treat at the end! It was a great way to start the day, and gave everyone a chance to see, smell, and learn about the chocolate-making process!
After Chocolate World, we made our way into Hershey Park. There was so much to do and see. Some of our more adventurous friends--led by our adventurous staff member, Britt, went immediately for the big rides! They chose to do the sooperdooperLooper, the first ever looping roller coaster on the East Coast. It’s a 57-foot tall coaster with one big vertical loop, followed by all sorts of dips, drops, and bunny hills. Other social clubbers, who love thrills, but not loops, rode the Wave Swinger, a classic ride that allows riders to fly through the air and see the park. The third group, those of us who aren’t big fans of rides all together, had some lunch while we waited.
Our second stop was Reese’s Cupfusion-- a video game-based ride where gamers are secret agents tasked with protecting the chocolate factory to ensure that the world never goes without the Reese’s Cup. Our agents did exceptionally well, and everyone came out with a smile on their face.
The entire group went together to ride the Monorail. With open windows, we were able to see everything as we rode above Hershey Park, ZooAmerica, and historic downtown Hershey. We even saw the actual Hershey factory! It was a pleasant ride, and a nice midday break before going back to coasters.
The sun started to set when we exited the Monorail, and the holiday lights came on! There were lights everywhere! Santa’s Sleigh could be seen on top of the Comet, being pulled by all his reindeer, and all the trees lit our way as we walked to our next adventure.
Britt led her thrill-seekers to the Sidewinder-- a coaster that goes forwards and backwards, for a total of 6 loops! The rest of us enjoyed Founder’s Way, a section of the park that holds amusement classics such as the Carrousel, the Tilt-a-Whirl, and the Scrambler. Skyview, a ski lift that brings riders over the park, was a fan-favorite. Social clubbers bought keychains, clothing, and candy for souvenirs!
Below is a short video of some of our friends getting ready to ride!
We finished our day back at Hershey’s Chocolate World. Exhausted from such an action-packed day, we found some tables and got some dinner. We exchanged stories and heard all about roller coasters and shopping! A few people asked if we were going to come back. We certainly hope so!
After dinner, we packed up and walked back to our cars. We continued sharing stories from the day, of friendships that were created, and the fun times that were had. We met everyone’s parents/counselors back at the Westminster Community Center and bid them farewell.
We are so happy with how the day went! We were thrilled to see the fun that everyone had. We are approaching the end of the year, and can’t wait for our next social outing in January at Meltdown DiY Art Studio in Eldersburg, Maryland!
Barrier-Free's November social outing was full of friends, delicious food, and wonderful times!
We were also fortunate enough to host this Social Club outing on a a Greene Turtle Funds with Friends fundraiser day! Barrier-Free earned 20% of the bill for anyone who dined at Greene Turtle in support of Barrier-Free.
Here are some highlights from the social clubs hours (6:30 - 8pm). If we missed you earlier in the day, we appreciate your support and presence.
Social Clubbers having an awesome time together!
Our waiter Kevin was incredible and such an asset to the Greene Turtle team.
Barrier-Free families coming out to support and take in the good times!
Pictured above: Actors Gary & John, and the Boyle and Nuzzo families.
Pictured below: Actor Jenny with her boyfriend, Richard, and support staff, Jenny Yingling.
Smiles all around from our Barrier-Free bunch!
Pictured above: Actor Geoffrey and the Wolf Family.
Pictured below: The Silverman Family.
Support throughout the community!
Pictured above: McDaniel Staff, Jill Millison & Melanie Conley, from the Student Accessibility & Support Services (SASS) Office and co-workers of our Creative Director, Britt Burr, supporting Barrier-Free's work!
Pictured below: Ernie & Darlene Burr, parents to Britt & Lauren, spreading their Barrier-Free love!
A special thank you to The Arc Carroll County for sending in so many clients to enjoy a meal together in support of Barrier-Free!
Pictured below: An Arc client enjoying her night out!
We'll see you at our next Social Club!
It was a brisk fall night when our Barrier-Free social clubbers met at the entrance of Screamland Farms, Maryland’s Premiere in-your-face haunt for our first Social Club outing!
Our first stop was the food stand. To warm up before the sun went down, friends filled up on chicken tenders, fries, and hot chocolate. Then the real fun began! Some of us sat around a bonfire to stay warm (and away from the scary). Britt took the rest of the group to the spooky things. Their first trip was through the Hayride of Haunts, where participants sat in a truck bed full of hay, and rode through the dark as monsters tried scare them. The group even saw Sam, a Barrier-Free actor, when he jumped up out of the cornfield. One social clubber, Grace, said that a crazy clown offered her a “haircut,” but it would entail cutting off her scalp as well! Needless to say, we're very glad Grace didn’t take her up on that offer.
Unfortunately, photos were not allowed on the Hayride, but trust us when we say it was spooky!
We also had a huge surprise while waiting at the bonfire! Langston, our newest social clubber and long-time friend, arrived! We were so excited to see him! After everyone caught up on the happenings of the hayride, Langston joined the crew on the walk-through of Barn of Bedlam. I personally can’t say what went on inside the house, but from the outside, we heard screams and saw a very large man with a bloody apron and chainsaw chase our friends out of the building! So scary!
Check out the video of everyone’s reactions below!
After the barn, some of us waited in line for a fortune teller. The rest walked around to see some of the haunted displays. Then our night came to an end. We waved goodbye to everyone and told them how much we were looking forward to seeing them again.
We are so grateful to everyone who showed up and made our first Social Club outing of the year a huge success.
Our November meetup will be held at The Greene Turtle in Westminster. It will also serve as a fundraiser to raise money for future programming! .
Social Club Forum Recap
On Thursday September 26th, Barrier-Free participants, families, counselors, and friends gathered at the Westminster Community Center to discuss and collaborate about the future of Social Club - while enjoying some ice cream!
Together we brainstormed a long list of potential social club outings.
Here's what was shared:
Over 35 in attendance at our Barrier-Free Ice Cream Social!
We also discussed some key points including - what we wanted to get out of Social Club, days, times, transportation, and cost.
What We Want to Get Out of Social Club:
**Unfortunately Barrier-Free is not a large service agency and does not own company vans/vehicles. We brainstormed some transportation options.**
Barrier-Free Staff getting set-up for Ice Cream Social!
Pictured left to right: Sandra Roll (Board Treasurer, Concessions Manager, mother to Britt & Lauren Burr),
Laura Stall (Barrier-Free Content Creator, Board Secretary)
In the coming days, we will announce the outings, dates, and costs for Barrier-Free Social Clubs in October, November, and December.
By announcing in advance, it is our hope that Social Clubbers and families can plan accordingly for dates, costs, and transportation.
Announcements will be made via email, website, and social media.
Make sure you're on our email lists and social media to be the first to hear!