Red Kite by the Sea, an interactive theatrical performance for children with autism spectrum disorder, will continue Chicago Children’s Theatre’s commitment to producing theatrical programming created exclusively for children with autism. The success of Red Kite performances is largely due to the development of a holistic experience that takes into account the specific needs of each child and can adapt to them, something the company does in a variety of ways. The Social Story is a guide previewing the Red Kite experience. Two different versions are available – one for children attending the show and another for caregivers, utilizing video clips, pictures, and voiceovers to introduce children to the characters, plot, and performance environment; the latter describes the atmosphere, structure, and timing, so adults can determine if the Red Kite production is appropriate for their child(ren).
In 2011, CCT enhanced its reach by incorporating iPads into Red Kite performances and developing a tap-to-talk application that enables non-verbal children to engage in the show. The application is available free through the Apple Store, so participants can continue to interact with characters and activities long after departing the performance. Because autism has such a broad spectrum, it is critical to create numerous points of entry into the experience. For some children, the visual sensation of a Red Kite performance is sufficiently engaging; for others, touch, smell, and sound will be more successful in gaining and holding their attention. Thus, particular attention is paid to making the show as multi-sensory as possible.
Red Kite by the Sea immerses audiences in an exploration of the seaside and aquatic life. The installation allows participants to experience sensations such as touching a fish, smelling saltwater, and feeling the sand. The piece features the contributions of five performers, including one actor on the autism spectrum. The ratio of one performer to every two children, with a maximum of ten children participating--each with an ASD allows each child to be paired with an ensemble member who guides him through the installation’s settings and activities. All performers complete extensive training on how best to reach and engage children on the autism spectrum, so they can address the needs of every audience member and make each performance highly personalized. Red Kite by the Sea also features contributions from several leading designers, providing a realistic and tactile set; state of the art sound design, original music, and a life-size canvas of digital video projections. CCT will present its second production of Red Kite by the Sea in February 2013 at Millennium Park and plans to tour the piece regionally, thereby reaching even more children with autism who may never have had the chance to attend a theatrical performance.