My first year at Northwestern, I discovered a student group named Seesaw Theatre that opened me up to thinking about accessibility in the arts. Seesaw’s mission is to create multi-sensory theatre for students with developmental differences and on the autism spectrum.
I’ve always loved the pitch black, quiet space of a theater during a play or musical. When I came to campus and got involved with Seesaw, I quickly became friends with others who helped me see things from a new perspective: that very same dark and silent auditorium which I find cozy can be an uncomfortable experience for many others, and I began to learn that there are countless ways to engage in art.
Through Seesaw, I worked with my peers on creating art that does not depend on an individual’s ability to sit quietly in a dark space for hours in order to digest art. Instead, Northwestern’s Seesaw creates shows that involve all senses – taste, smell, touch, sight, and listening. Audiences can choose when and to what extent they want to be involved in the show.
Northwestern has over 500 student organizations that range from our Happiness club to countless philanthropic organizations. As students, we are always being engaged with programing on campus. But for many students like myself, working on-campus was just the beginning. At a networking event sponsored by EPICS (External Programs, Internships, & Career Services), I was able to meet Jacqueline Russell, founder of Red Kite, the professional program on which Seesaw is based. We discussed her work with Red Kite including a new production being created for vision-impaired audiences.
This spring, I’ll be working with Jacqueline to help generate material for her new show. Four years ago, I didn’t know much about accessibility in the arts, but Northwestern’s eternally inquisitive student body has created a campus full of learning opportunities for students to expand our understanding of the world around us.
While on campus, don’t be afraid to dig into those experiences around you. What starts as simply attending an informational meeting can soon turn into a passion, and with Chicago just down the road, you’ll always be able to put that passion to the test.