My name is Suzanne Richard, and I want to tell you about my life's work: Arts-Access-Awesomeness! At the beginning of the 21st century, after working as a professional performing artist and arts advocate with a disability for more than a decade, I founded Open Circle Theatre, a professional theatre company that has championed careers in the arts for people with disabilities for 20 years. Artists that even today are being told they cannot train in some college theatre departments!
With the support and manpower of Washington, D.C.'s amazing theatre scene, I and other artists were able to create a professional space where disabled artists' work could be seen on and off stage. I continue to be proud of the critically acclaimed shows we have produced, ranging fromThe Who's Tommy to Caucasian Chalk Circle, which have even garnered Helen Hayes nominations. These shows not only showcased artists with disabilities and got them work elsewhere, they also contributed to building our own disability aesthetic that celebrated disability as enhancing a production, rather than being an obstacle.
But it's time for Open Circle to grow-up and stop being dependent on me! With your help, we can begin to hire a staff to capitalize on more of the amazing opportunities to elevate the disability voice that come our way.
Let me give you a taste of what we have planned for this year, and you will begin to get a feel for why we need your help!
The Open Circle Hive: We continue growing this collective of exclusively disabled artists from 40 to 60 members. Meetings and opportunities to create, as well as support each other's work. We were even honored to host guest Beth Bienvenue, Accessibility Director at the National Endowment for the Arts!
The Second Annual Open Doors Festival: Hosted at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the first festival showcased artists with disabilities and saw over 100 people coming together, affirming that there is a community in the DC area that is ready for gathering! This year, we are looking to hold it at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Downtown D.C.
***But the pièce de résistance (yeah, I'm French lol) is our three-year development plan for a new musical that will push the boundaries of arts and disability, the digital world, and radical accessibility!***
The Grieving Project: This is a project that is literally pioneering a new way to bring live theatre experiences to the millions of people who cannot attend live theatre and help create a comparable virtual experience in community with a live audience. Our online audience can come into a virtual theatre lobby, interact with other online ticket holders, take a seat, choose their camera angles during a performance like a live audience member, and become a part of the beautiful part of theatre where we all sit in the same room and hear a story together. As you can imagine, that's a lot of tech and a lot of money!! At the end of February, we are excited dive into the next phase of the show development with a two week residency at The Voxel, an amazing new space in Baltimore, that will help us to begin fusing the beautiful music and script of the play (and it is GORGEOUS) with all that crazy technology.
We Need You to be a Part of This! We've been furiously writing grants and building relationships, but it's just not enough right now. Please give us your support. Through the arts, a community can be brought together to celebrate all abilities and embrace similarities rather than differences while still elevating the unique contributions made by people with disabilities. We'll put your money to amazing and empowering use!
(And for those of you who are long-time OCT fans, with your support, there is a rumor of a 20-year revival of our landmark production of Jesus Christ Superstar...there's another election coming up! So cough up the dough lol.)
We will be putting the names of our donors on the website, but contact me if you would like to be anonymous.
Suggested Donation Amounts:
$50 - New Moon
$100 - Quarter Moon
$250 - Half Moon
$500 - Hunter's Moon
$1,000 - Harvest Moon
$5,000 - Tranquility Base
$10,000 - Walking on the Moon