Residency in a Special Needs School
During 2000, the Company took up an offer, by St.Christopher's Special School in Wrexham, to spend part of our rehearsal time at their new site. St.Christopher's is an Eco-School and the Company has also joined with St.Christopher's in a number of projects based on the Environment and the Recycling of Waste.
Drama Centre for Children with Disabilities
At our HQ on the Rhosddu Industrial Estate, in Wrexham we are helping to develop a drama centre for children with disabilities along with the Charity Reactivate. The building has been equipped with full disabled access and a disabled toilet. This building is also used by the BITESIZE Youth Theatre which has a number of Special Needs children as members.
All BITESIZE Productions are suitable for Special Needs
We produce high-quality, widely accessible shows, which also take into account the particular needs of children in Special Needs Schools. The shows have clear stories, lots of colourful costumes and scenery and, where appropriate, lots of audience participation. We include a greater use of sound and music; but no loud bangs or flashing lights. (We have also tried to introduce smells!! Into the performances. We make our casts aware of the what will be required of them when visiting and performing in a Special Needs School. We also offer schools a Preshow visits; where some of the cast will visit the children in their classrooms before the show. The children are put at ease by talking to the "baddie" and seeing that he's really a very nice person; that any masks used in the show are just hats which they can try on; they even get to touch some of the costumes and props. When visiting schools with PMLD children, the cast will also take along touch and smell items to give the children a flavour of the show.
We organise a lot of shows around Christmas time, a traditional time for pantomimes and for school theatre visits. Our Christmas shows are all original pantomimes, specially written along traditional lines, with a Dame, lots of audience participation, and all the traditional pantomime fun and enjoyment. Extra elements are included to increase their accessibility for as wide a range of disabilities as possible, including PMLD children, Pantomimes are particularly accessible; an easy route into live theatre for children everywhere, but especially for Children with special needs.
Unique Shakespeare for special needs project.
BITESIZE is uniquely placed to be able to bring the stories and characters in Shakespeare's plays to life and so we have been successfully offering workshops for Special Needs Schools, on the works of William Shakespeare, for a number of years. Exploring the plays through performance and workshop, rather than the written word, can reinvigorate the teaching of Shakespeare and allow the children to get a better understanding, as well as learning to enjoy, Shakespeare's work. The National curriculum has introduced the study of Shakespeare as a compulsory element for all students regardless of disability but we encounter many teachers who feel inexperienced and unqualified to deliver the work in an interesting, accessible or inspiring way. The text book approach, we are told, doesn't work for 90% of special needs students. Our aim is to increase accessibility , interest and understanding by making Shakespeare fun to learn . We take a hands on approach, to explore the history, the life and times of Shakespeare, and explore the stories of the plays through language, texture, visuals, sounds, smells and even tastes, making them lively and exciting to hear and see, and bringing the literature to life for children who cannot always learn by conventional chalk and talk methods
BITESIZE produced a show called "The Shape of Things to Come", which was performed with the help and participation of the staff and pupils from St.Christopher's School. This enjoyable and entertaining show, and the workshops originally toured to 10 Primary Schools in the Wrexham area to encourage good citizenship and help the children in the audience to pass on the message about good practice for sustain-ability to both family members and peers. The production was toured again the following year, and in 2003 the charity Reactivate funded a tour of every special school in Wales.
Overcoming the problems of access
Our productions are taken into the schools which allows the children to be happy and relaxed in their normal environment and feel at ease to join in the various participatory elements in the performance. This is particularly important for Special Schools but also eliminates the cost and difficulty of transporting large numbers of wheelchair bound children to a theatre or other venue.
Comments from our audiences
The enjoyment and benefits gained by the children are immeasurable. But judging by the comments we receive the shows are appreciated by staff and pupils alike :
"The sheer quality of the performance ensured that all of the children and staff had a wonderful afternoon." "It certainly helped their speech and language." "Everything about the production exuded professionalism, the company literally had the entire audience captivated." "A tremendous success. The children were wild with excitement..... so worthwhile since our children are unable to see live shows because their parents find the wheelchairs a major problem."
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