FARM! A Musical Experience is a devised performance piece created under the leadership of MSU Theatre Faculty Member, Dionne O’Dell with a team of MSU Theatre and Education students.
The show is created for neurodiverse students. The rehearsal process was based on the pioneering multi-sensory, participatory model developed by both Oily Cart Theatre (London) and Lincoln Center Education/Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company (NYC). The team connects with their audience by utilizing techniques such as breaking the fourth wall, individual performer/audience member interaction and live music.
In Spring 2019, FARM! A Musical Experience will tour to local special education classrooms and families in the Greater Lansing Area. It was also recently featured at the Annual Friends of Theatre Gala on May 8, 2018.
MSU Department of Theatre has partnered with the 4th Wall Theatre Company, a group that works with special needs students throughout Michigan to provide workshops for students with autism for the past four years. Through a ten-week residency model, culminating in a final performance for family and friends, MSU theatre students have worked with local students on the autism spectrum, helping them gain confidence, and make strides both cognitively and socially. This partnership has been the building block for creating a theatrical production specifically for an audience of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and those with other diagnoses. While there have been many sensory friendly initiatives that alter existing work in order to make it accessible for students with special needs throughout the United States in recent years, there has been little work created specifically for audiences with special needs.
FARM! A Musical Experience fits into the THR’s continuing mission “to promote drama and theatre as civilizing agents within society, and to address the redefinitions of dramatic and theatrical styles, forms, and structures, as they emerge as artistic responses to the changing world.” Department of Theatre faculty member, Dionne O’Dell, plans to continue to research and develop this theatrical model through workshops and training with Lincoln Center Education/Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company and the Oily Cart Theatre of London. Ms. O’Dell will also continue to teach THR 422, a Children’s Theatre class that explores the model and works to devise theatrical productions specifically for neurodiverse students.