Producers Ben Holtzman, Sammy Lopez and Fiona Rudin, also known as P3 Productions, are offering a free day of professional development on anti-ableism and inclusivity called Accessibility Day. Scheduled for Jan. 31, the event’s programming will center around disability awareness and education that emerged from the team’s musical-in-development “How to Dance in Ohio.”
The show, based on Alexandra Shiva’s documentary of the same name, tells the story of seven autistic young adults who face the possibilities and fears of connection when their Ohio community center decides to organize a dance. Given the subject matter, P3 established a four-person consulting team to help authentically cast, create and run “How to Dance in Ohio.” As Lopez said, “If we were going to build a show that centers autistic young adults, we wanted to make sure that we had autistic young adults as part of our development process from the get-go.”
While the objective of the supplemental team was to ensure inclusivity and accuracy in the musical, what resulted was a complete shift in P3’s producing process not only on “Ohio” but all of its shows.
Holtzman, Lopez and Rudin’s experience with their consulting team has affected how they approach investors, how they cast, how they conduct rehearsals and how they think about the creative material across their projects, regardless of story. “We are all constantly learning new things about the ways in which we can implement anti-ableism practices into our producing philosophies, in general,” Lopez said. The trio wants to share their knowledge with other theatermakers through Accessibility Day.
Ava Xiao-Lin Rigelhaupt, who serves as the show’s autistic creative consultant, has been involved in the planning for the day and hopes it will influence producers and other Broadway businesspeople to think differently about disability and accessibility. “Being inclusive and creating accessible spaces isn’t as much work or scary or expensive as many people think it is,” Rigelhaupt said, “especially if you think about inclusion and accessibility from the beginning — which goes into a panel we have.”
The full day of programming begins with Sharing the Stage, a training workshop from Co/Lab Theater Group which aims to help outside teams become inclusive and collaborative, specifically with regards to disability. Co-founded by Becky Leifman, who serves as director of community engagement for “Ohio,” Co/Lab is a nonprofit that began by offering theater classes to adults with developmental disabilities.
The afternoon will feature three panel discussions: Say the Word: Disability; Access in Mind vs. Access in Afterthought; and “Representation Behind the Scenes.” Panelists include A.A. Brenner, Co/Lab’s interim development manager; Sarah Hom, Roundabout Theatre Company’s director of audience development; Gregg Mozgala, a star of “Cost of Living”; Leifman, Jeremy Wein, Nicole D’Angelo and Rigelhaupt — all a part of the “Ohio” consulting team; and members of the “Ohio” cast.
Attendees of Accessibility Day can choose to attend the morning program Sharing the Stage, the afternoon panels or both free of charge. “The cost wasn’t even a conversation that we had because it’s so impactful for our process now,” Lopez said. “With our industry, encouraging professional development is just going to inspire and change the industry in a way that we don’t know yet because we just need to keep questioning our process and questioning ourselves.”
Industry professionals interested in learning more about the schedule and/or attending can email firstname.lastname@example.org.