The Young Company will present BYU’s first sensory-friendly theatre performances before beginning their tour of local elementary schools
The Department of Theatre and Media Arts’Young Company will open the 2019-2020 BYU theatre season with an imaginative and inclusive production of Anne Negri’s “With Two Wings,” which begins its campus run on Oct. 9.
The award-winning play — which is loosely based on the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus — follows Lyf, a flightless young girl in a fantasy world where people have wings. As she meets and interacts with a child outside of her family’s isolated lifestyle, Lyf begins to question the strict rules of her parents, including their number one rule: never try to fly.
Though the play was written for young audiences, director Julia Ashworth feels that the script’s exploration of deep and sometimes difficult topics — including disability and familial relationships — makes it important and useful viewing for all ages.
“The script is really sweet and beautiful,” said Ashworth. “The first thing that stood out to me is how honest it is without talking down to young people at all. It is a coming-of-age story, but it’s relatable for anyone of any age. I find myself learning things from this script all the time.”
The Department of Theatre and Media Arts chose to put the show’s messages of inclusion and acceptance of oneself and others into practice with BYU’s first sensory-friendly theatre performances.
After training with one of the nation’s foremost specialists in inclusive theatre for young audiences in the spring, Ashworth and her crew set to work developing an experience that would be welcoming and comfortable for audiences of all abilities.
During the production’s sensory-friendly performances — for general audiences the evening of Oct. 16 and for students from the Spectrum Academy in a private matinee — the house lights will stay partially up and the Nelke Theatre will have safe spaces and activities in place to allow audience members to move around and take a break if needed.
The cast and crew have also taken an educational approach, using lobby displays, interactive activities and a one-hour orientation and meet and greet prior to the sensory-friendly shows to help audiences prepare for what they will experience and see on stage. Dramaturg Samm Madsen headed up many of these efforts, finding personal connection to the play and to the theatre department’s emphasis on accessibility.
“I was drawn to the idea of a show about a child encountering disability, because I am a child of a disabled parent,” said Madsen. “I was mainly raised by my mom, who has multiple sclerosis (MS). As her primary caregiver for many years — while she was simultaneously my primary caregiver — we developed a very special and interesting relationship, and I was intrigued to help another story of disability play out on stage with my unique perspective.”
Though the staging and script itself will not change significantly for the production’s sensory-friendly performances, Madsen and Ashworth hope that the crew’s preparatory measures will make an outing to the theatre possible and enjoyable for children and families who may not otherwise have the experience.
Ashworth also credits the contributions of the cast in developing an encouraging atmosphere of honest storytelling and reflection.
“Each of them has been very dedicated in trying to find the truth and heart of their character and their relationships with each other,” said Ashworth. “The seriousness with which they’ve taken their work is really gratifying, and they’re very supportive of each other as well. It’s been a caring environment while still maintaining rigor and high expectations.”
The cast and crew — including Madsen and her husband CJ, a master’s student in the School of Music who composed original music for the production — have continually returned to Negri’s script throughout the rehearsal process to ensure that their acting and design choices best reflect the messages at the heart of the show.
“The execution is so playful and colorful, yet the themes are so deep and relatable,” said Madsen. “I relate to it as a child, thinking of my experience with my disabled mom. I relate to it as a mother, hoping I can have the courage to let my two little girls stretch their wings and fly as they grow up. And I relate to it as a human, because I’m still trying to grow up and become who I really am. I’m grateful for the courage the show inspires in me.”
One of Ashworth’s primary aims with the production is for audiences — children and adults alike — to come away feeling empowered to work toward their dreams while helping others do the same.
“I hope it makes young people feel brave,” said Ashworth. “Brave to find out what they’re passionate about, to voice that and to find support from their family. Support from family and friends and acceptance of each other can help us take the risks necessary to fulfill our dreams.”
Following the production’s BYU run, the Young Company will begin educational tours to local elementary schools. For information about booking a school performance and post-show workshop, contact Rebeca Wallin at email@example.com or (801) 422-4589.
Playwright Anne Negri will be in attendance on opening night (Oct. 9) and will sign programs after the show.
Tickets and Show Details
Performance Dates and Times: Oct. 9-12, 16-18 | 7 p.m. and Oct. 12, 19 | 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Playwright Anne Negri will sign programs after the show on Oct. 9
There will be a sensory-friendly performance on Oct. 16
Location: Nelke Theatre
Tickets: Available in person at the BYU HFAC or Marriott Center Ticket Office, by phone at (801) 422-2981 or online at byuarts.com