Over the past year, The Community School (TCS) has entered a blossoming relationship with the Education department at the Alliance Theatre. Olivia Bosworth, Family Programs Manager for the Alliance, is a vibrant, warm and engaging professional who TCS has had the pleasure of working with. To enhance TCS’s work program Bosworth, with the support of her team at the Alliance, committed themselves to crafting an innovative, individualized program that would be tailored to the needs of TCS’s participants. The program has grown to not only give our participants valuable hands-on work experience and give our work program a new face in the community but also grown to foster opportunities for our staff and participants to enjoy exclusive experiences such as backstage tours, private puppet workshops and access to view industry-level production practices and soft opening productions of major plays at the Alliance.
Most recently, our internship participants were invited by Bosworth to view one of the first showings of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. This was an amazing opportunity we were very excited to be offered! We all knew it could be difficult to see to fruition for some of our participants because of their various sensory and social challenges. Fortunately we have a vast network of dedicated professionals who are eager to support the participants with these challenges. With the help of Bosworth we were able to support our participants and further expand on the previous experiences of our participants with theatre style entertainment which for some has historically not always been so fruitful.
Several factors played into this success. Bosworth and her team have cultivated a friendly and comforting environment for our participants that has helped to stimulate their curiosity and genuine excitement. Our multiple visits to the Alliance Theatre have helped our participants to establish a personal connection with the arts and Bosworth’s staff at the Alliance; so, in a sense they know what to expect. Although, there are new accomplishable challenges each time. These challenges are constructed by Bosworth for every visit where she drafts developmentally appropriate and engaging projects that leave the participants with the feeling that they have accomplished these tasks with a great success. Each success is a thread of experience weaving into and expanding the participants tapestry of positive experiences at the Alliance.
During the production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe there were many other schools invited. In fact when we arrived the whole atrium was buzzing with activity. Many students of other schools were chatting in large groups and brimming with excitement for the play. It could have been a lot for our participants to take in via the noise level and the amount of bodies in the room. As we waited for Bosworth to meet us in the atrium our participants unlike the students from other schools paced around the room disengaged from our group. They were seeking isolation and displaying some signs of their excitement but also anxiety. Yet as soon as the participants saw Bosworth, their faces lit up like roman candles. Large, eager smiles gathered around her awaiting for their instructions. She had reserved seats for us in the back of the Theatre to make it easy for us to leave and re-enter if the need should arise. She even showed us to our seats prior to many of the other school groups entering to make the transition as smooth as possible.
This was a rare day for some of the participants who had never been able to sit through a whole production before. On this day everyone in the group was able to enjoy the play in its entirety because their needs were being met on a level that helped them to push through the anxiety and stress that they often attribute to such events. It was an incredible to be able to enjoy such a fine production with all of them being present and attentive. They found parts of the play to be hilarious and cheered for Aslan when he vanquished the White Witch!
When the play finished we were able to easily slip out the back of the theatre and they all thanked Bosworth without a reminder from the staff to say “thank you.” Bosworth accompanied us outside where we were waiting to get picked up. Then while we were casually chatting outside about the play the participants initiated a group high-five with Bosworth, a TCS favorite to show appreciation and excitement as a group.
The opportunity for meaningful experience is something so precious and important to the development of an individual. Experiences like these are what we hope to share with our participants and others in our community, and are a major part of the foundation of TCS’s altruistic philosophy. We know that with Bosworth navigating the helm of this internship we will soon share in the delight of experiencing many distant shorelines of success that we once thought of as unreachable horizons.