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CCRI's Bobby Hackett Theatre to host free play readings by neurodiverse artists

CCRI's Bobby Hackett Theatre to host free play readings by neurodiverse artistsTheatre Program Director and Professor Ted Clement helped facilitate CCRI's collaboration with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble (STE).

The Community College of Rhode Island’s student-run theater group, the CCRI Players, and the college’s Office of Student Engagement are teaming with Spectrum Theatre Ensemble (STE), a company of neurodiverse theatre artists based in Providence, RI, to host a free series of play readings by neurodivergent artists at the college’s Warwick Campus.

The readings are scheduled for tomorrow, Friday, March 24 at 7 pm at the Bobby Hackett Theatre. STE is sponsoring the event in hopes of showing those with neurodivergence the “power of seeing oneself on stage and how it can enhance one's view of self and neurodivergent identity.” The event includes three play readings and a monologue featuring 10 neurodivergent artists, many of whom are BIPOC.

Neurodivergence is the term for when someone's brain processes, learns, and/or behaves differently from what is considered “typical.” The term includes a variety of conditions, including, but not limited to: autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injuries, dyslexia/dyscalculia, epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette syndrome, Down syndrome, bipolar disorder, and various others. 

According to Clay Martin, the STE’s Founding Artistic Director, the collaboration with CCRI came about when the college’s Theatre Program Director and Professor Ted Clement reached out to bring the neurodivergence workshop to CCRI to “uplift, include, and highlight neurodivergent artists and audiences through live theatre.”

Neurodivergent adults, Martin said, are among the most underemployed segments of the adult population across every age and race. According to studies, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent adults is typically between 30 and 40 percent, which is three times the rate for people with disabilities, and eight times the rate for people without disabilities.

“They exist everywhere,” Martin said. “Through STE, we have created opportunities for people who work with us to work independently elsewhere and secure employment outside of our organization.

“Ted [Clement] is an amazing individual. We spoke to him about ways that this event can impact the college community and hopefully integrate our program with CCRI while helping the Theater Department work further with disability programs on campus, which I think is a relationship that benefits everyone.”

Founded by Martin in 2017, STE is a company of neurodiverse theatre artists with the common belief that theatre provides a unique, collaborative venue for the understanding and inclusion of all, and that society and culture is stronger for it. STE produces “relevant and high-quality productions” in addition to leading initiatives and sensory-friendly consulting with other organizations within the theatre industry and beyond.

Last year, STE produced two in-house performances and plans to expand to six in 2023. Noted Martin, “we never intended to be a strictly production-based theater company, as we devote a lot of our time to accessibility and inclusivity work.”

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