Sense-Ability Ensemble: Creating Innovative, Multi-Sensory, Interactive Theatrical Performance for Neurodiverse Audiences

Dionne O’Dell, College of Arts and Letters

4th Wall Theatre Company

For the past seven years, Dionne O’Dell in the Department of Theatre has partnered with the 4th Wall Theatre Company, a group that works with neurodiverse students. O’Dell is the advisor of the Sense-Ability Ensemble, a student organization that conducts regular theatrical workshops for neurodiverse students, including those with autism spectrum disorders, through a ten-week residency program. Led by 4th Wall instructors and MSU students, the workshops culminate in a final performance for friends and family.

In 2015, the collaboration expanded to include the Resource Center in Genesee County and Flint Youth Theatre to offer a modified residency program to the Flint community free of charge as part of the Imagine Flint program through the MSU College of Arts and Letters.

This partnership has developed two world premiere productions that tour special education classrooms around Michigan: Farm! A Musical Experience and Soda Pop Shop. Funded by MSU grants from Theatre, Arts and Letters, the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and the Center for Research in Autism, Intellectual, and other Neurodevelopmental Disorders, these productions contribute to a wider understanding of the arts, health, and social/emotional well-being. Additional partners include the Oily Cart Theatre in London, Lincoln Center Education, and the Trusty Sidekick Theater in NYC.