Theatre Terrific brings together inclusive casts for provocative productions, such as "Being Animal"
November 8th, 2021
Theatre Terrific is one of Canada's leading inclusive theatre groups, bringing together diverse casts for provocative productions, addressing issues that many other groups won't touch.
Their success shows that collaboration, mutual respect, and recognizing everyone's strengths goes a long way.
TIME FOR SOMETHING NEW
All of them were fed up.
Tired of being unable to find engaging and inclusive activities for their children with complex needs, a group of BC parents came together in 1985 to create something new.
The result? Theatre Terrific, an inclusive theatre company which welcomes persons of all backgrounds and abilities to participate in demanding yet inclusive theatre productions.
Now based out of Vancouver, but with classes and workshops around the province, Theatre Terrific continues to honour the vision its founders had starting out nearly 4 decades ago.
Susanna Uchatius, Theatre Terrific's artistic director, joined the group 16 years ago and never looked back.
An equity actor who studied in New York and London, Susanna found Theatre Terrific's work right up her alley - and deeply personal.
Her daughter was born with a speech impairing disability, and when younger struggled to communicate vocally. She could, however, express herself through movement and gestures - both key parts of the theatre experience.
Susanna working with performer Tyson
Susanna took that lesson to heart and began working with community groups to promote inclusive theatre. She quickly saw that disability could be a strength; a gift that allows performers to contribute perspectives and experiences that few others can.
Recognizing that each person has something to contribute, regardless of their experience, ability, or background, is at the core of her work with Theatre Terrific: work that starts in the circle.
Theatre Terrific practices begin in the following way.
To establish mutual respect and equality, participants form a circle, each person equidistance from the ones next to them. In this space, they share something new with one another and interact on the same level.
"It doesn't matter what your ability or experience is - we've had total newcomers and we've had people who've been on Broadway. We all come into this as equals, to collaborate and help each other grow as performers."
Highlights from Theatre Terrific
Susanna believes that one of Theatre Terrific's biggest strengths is that they bring together people who would never normally connect.
"There are performers who are Indigenous, deaf, have cerebral palsy or down syndrome; there's a playwright from Sudan, an actor from Thailand, and others who don't identify with any cross-section."
"Our cast represents society as it is - what you see if you go around Vancouver. It's real inclusion and allows us to touch on so many topics."
It's this eagerness to explore a broad range of issues, some highly controversial, that sets Theatre Terrific apart from many other inclusive theatre groups.
Theatre Terrific prides itself on, in its words, "supporting artists of all abilities in the rigorous creation of provocative theatre."
Through creating a fully supportive environment, cast members feel comfortable to explore controversial and sometimes deeply personal issues.
Their productions have addressed environmental issues and gender debates, and they even held a show in which participants shared their experiences and perspectives on sex.
Some of Theatre Terrific's productions
Susanna notes that performing in these shows can be especially powerful for cast members who have historically been excluded from theatre.
"Many of our performers don't see themselves represented as normal human beings, or at all, in traditional productions."
"But here they fully contribute, are fully valued as artists, and have their work celebrated. They also gain the confidence of having stepped beyond what many of them thought was their limit - to get up on stage in front of a crowd and perform."
And performing's something Theatre Terrific wants everyone to join them in this year.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU
Theatre Terrific's now offering another opportunity - free chorus classes.
Held online, these classes will focus on connection, community, and self-expression. Participants will learn new arrangements to familiar songs, Christmas carols, ASL interpretations, and get a chance to write their own songs.
Susanna is adamant that choir's something everyone should try.
"We have a singer with impaired speech, she sings like you can't believe. Singing puts you in a place where you can express things that you couldn't when talking. Everybody can sing, they just need to give it a shot."
The chorus class runs into December, and like all Theatre Terrific's work is open to anyone who wants to participate, no matter their ability or background.
Give it a shot - you may discover you're a singer after all!
To learn more about Theatre Terrific, visit their website.
Spencer van Vloten is the editor of BC Disability. To get in touch, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!