Building for Kids Partners With Sensory-Inclusive Performance

March 9, 2023

Ensuring that all audiences can enjoy the live performing arts, your Fox Cities P.A.C. brings diverse programming to the stage. This includes sensory-inclusive programming designed to offer people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds and interests an opportunity to enjoy the magic of live theater in a comfortable atmosphere. Welcoming patrons to the sensory-inclusive performance on March 19, the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences on Tour presents Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume. We are thankful to bring this family-friendly performance to the Fox Cities with the help of the show’s Community Engagement Partner, Appleton’s Building for Kids. Delving into the meaning of this partnership, sensory-inclusive programming and what audiences can expect, the Building for Kids’ Director of Programs & Community Engagement Beth Vanderloop and Maribeth Weatherford from the production team of Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume share their thoughts.

Read more about Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume March 19 performance and purchase tickets here.

Considering community needs, the Fox Cities P.A.C. offers services so that everyone can enjoy their visit and experience including sensory-inclusive programming. But what is a sensory-inclusive performance? By dimming the lights, reducing audience capacity and lowering volume levels, those with sensory needs can experience live theater more comfortably. Patrons can even download the Center’s social story to know what to expect before visiting the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Center staff and volunteers are also trained to assist individuals of all ages, abilities and backgrounds with varying needs to enhance their performing arts experiences.

The Building for Kids understands the importance of sharing in experiences together as a family. As a local children’s museum serving as a safe place for families in the community and beyond to learn, grow and explore since 1992, Building for Kids has impacted multiple generations. “We believe in the power of play, and research continues to demonstrate that intergenerational, community-based play provides a singular opportunity to support cognitive and physical development, buffer against toxic stress, and build social-emotional resilience,” commented Beth Vanderloop. Having been with the organization since 2020, Beth has seen many families become stronger and more united when they have felt supported. “I truly believe that what we do at the Building for Kids impacts our community as a whole. We are a place where families feel a sense of belonging, where they can enjoy learning and growing together.”

In collaboration with Autism Society of the Fox Valley, the Building for Kids will facilitate sensory-inclusive activities in the Kimberly-Clark Theater starting at 2:30 p.m. on March 19 prior to the performance of Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume. These activities are free for ticket holders of the show and include playing musical instruments, creating pictures, having pictures taken at the photo booth and accessing the sensory station. Community support for this community engagement activity comes from Community First Credit Union. Doors to the activities in the Kimberly-Clark Theater will open at 2:30 p.m. and doors to the rest of the building will open at 3 p.m. with the performance beginning at 4 p.m.

Working with their community partners, the Building for Kids looks “to build authentic and inclusive, trust-based relationships that provide unique opportunities like sensory-inclusive activities at the museum and the support of experiences like Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume.” Beth added, “Sensory-inclusive performances allow families who might not otherwise go to the Fox Cities P.A.C. for a show feel confident and comfortable with participating.”

Helping coordinate the technical elements of the show and supporting the actors and creative team while they are on the road, Maribeth Weatherford has been with Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume since 2019. Maribeth later joined the production in 2021, helping with the original Kennedy Center production in November 2021 and the national tour coming to the Fox Cities P.A.C. The show got its start when Kwame Alexander and his writing partner, Mary Rand Hess, adapted two of his books, Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Band and Indigo Blume and the Garden City into a brand-new musical in 2019, commissioned by Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences. The authors/playwrights worked with composer Randy Preston, who wrote the catchy songs that appear in the show.  In a developmental workshop in 2019, a group of actors read lines and sang songs of the show, allowing the creative team to hear the show and make notes or changes. Kwame has since written a book based on the musical, published by Sleeping Bear Press and sharing the title with the musical. “We’re so thrilled to have this show touring the country and reaching young audiences across the country!” Maribeth shared ecstatically.

In a 65-minute musical, the performance features many kinds of music and actors who play multiple characters in a fun experience for the whole family. Commenting on what she loves about the show, Maribeth remarked, “I really love seeing all of the different pieces of the show come together! All of the work that the actors, director, choreographer, and creative team have been doing in the rehearsal room is integrated with the lights, sound, costumes, scenery and other technical elements to create a show that is super fun and engaging – and with songs you won’t be able to get out of your head for years!”

Reflecting on the importance of sensory-inclusive programming, Maribeth stated how important those performances are so everyone has a chance to experience musical theater “in safe and friendly environments.” “I hope the audiences are inspired by the story and the messages it carries about courage, self-confidence and friendship. I also hope the audiences are inspired by the fun “upcycled” vibe of costumes, scenery, instruments and props in the show to go home afterwards and create something of their own from upcycled materials.”

Maribeth shared her final thoughts: “The touring company of this show is amazing – they bring this show to life in a fun and engaging way, and we hope you’re entertained and inspired by what you see (and hear) onstage!”

Prepare for your experience with the sensory-inclusive, family-friendly performance of Acoustic Rooster’s Barnyard Boogie: Starring Indigo Blume at your Fox Cities Performing Arts Center with the following information provided by the Kennedy Center:

  • Performance guide
  • What to Expect
    • This 60-minute musical features many different kinds of music.

    • The main character in this story is Indigo Blume. Indigo and her friends have worked hard to clean up their community and are planning a festival! The night before the festival, Indigo falls asleep and has a fantastic dream.

    • Many actors play multiple characters. All of the animals in the story are played by people. To become different characters, the actors change their costumes, voices, and movements. Acoustic Rooster shouts “cock-a-doodle do!” often!
    • The performance can sometimes be loud. Before Indigo falls asleep, there is a thunderstorm and the thunder rumbles all around the theater. And when Indigo meets her new friends at the farm, a “hurri-train” hits! The hurri-train makes many loud sounds like a storm and frightens Indigo and her friends.
    • The characters sometimes have strong feelings. They communicate their feelings through the way they talk and sing, and by what they do. When Indigo thinks about singing at the festival, she gets nervous and starts to panic and shout!

To learn more about the Center’s 2022-23 Season Community Engagement Partners, click the link and watch for more blogs about each partner through the season.

Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center