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Courtesy Inside Out

Inside Out brings accessibility to the theatre with Assassinating Thomson

By Nikayla Goddard, March 14 2017 —

Experiencing the creation and exploration of another world filled with its own characters and quirks at the theatre should be an enjoyable experience for anyone.

Since its creation in 1993, Inside Out Theatre has evolved to facilitate actors and audiences with mental and physical disabilities. The company premiered Assassinating Thomson, at the Glenbow Museum on March 14.

Inside Out Theatre serves Calgary and the community by providing drama classes for people with disabilities, showing plays performed by people with disabilities and making performances accessible for all audiences. Inside Out artistic director Col Csecke says these performances are regular plays where all the rules are relaxed.

“If you don’t want to sit, you don’t have to sit,” he says. “You don’t have to be silent and still.”

Additionally, technical adjustments are made to tone down volume and light and there are “chill out zones” that allow audience members to take a step away if needed. American Sign Language is offered and “touch tours” for the visually impaired allow patrons to go up on stage prior to the show to feel props, explore the setting, meet the actors and have the world described to them to give them a good handle on the feel of the play.

Assassinating Thomson fits the mandate of Inside Out — the performance is written and performed by Bruce Horak, an artist with only nine per cent vision. The play itself is unconventional, as Horak sits in front of the audience and paints. While painting, he describes his project, The Way I See It, and how he went about making over 400 portraits that show his blindness.

“His paintings are full of abstraction, light [and] shape,” Csecke says. “He tells stories to the audience as the audience is sitting for their portrait.”

For Assassinating Thomson, Horak weaves autobiographical commentary and his exploration of Canadian painter Tom Thomson’s unsolved murder to highlight the unique way he sees the world with a disability.

“It’s an opportunity to challenge some of the ideas and preconceptions of what people with disabilities can do, for both the able-bodied and others with disabilities,” Horak says.

The play is hosted in one of the Glenbow Museum’s Canadian exhibits, alongside a collection of famous paintings much like the ones Horak talks about when he delves into Thomson’s work. The idea was originally Horak’s as a way to use a less traditional setting for the play instead of an empty stage.

“It’s quite an opportunity to open up the accessibility to theatre,” Horak says.

Assassinating Thomson will play at the Glenbow until March 18. Tickets are available online.

For more information, visit insideouttheatre.com

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