Theater and Performance Studies BA Projects

Katie Bevil

Project Title: Philosophical and Attitudinal: Relaxed and Sensory-Friendly Performances

Biographical Statement
Katie Bevil lives and studies in Chicago, and aims to work and act in Chicago theatres after graduation. They are a chronically ill actor and Francophone with interests in Shakespeare and disability studies. Katie’s other thesis is on French gender-neutral language, and they secretly want to be a pirate when they grow up. They do not have a driver’s license but they are working on it.

Research Statement
Simply put, what are relaxed and sensory-friendly (RSF) performances? At this time last year, I didn’t know either, so I endeavored to find out. A type of adapted performance designed to serve autistic patrons, patrons with sensory processing disorder, and many others, they are usually only offered once per run of a show at mainstream theatres, if at all. After interviewing theatre professionals in Chicago, I posed the following question for my research: how can RSF performances shift how we approach theatre? This critical paper explores how RSF performances happen, how they change the game for accessibility in theatre, and what they say about theatrical environments today. I argue that RSF performances make theatre accessible to larger audiences while highlighting how we can better serve all audiences. They can be easily applied to most houses and shows, and through this process we learn that accessibility is a production element like any other, and that theatre is not just an art, but a customer service. Furthermore, anyone can benefit from accessibility initiatives, and theatre in particular is an art form that will thrive from a better defined and less judgmental environment. Named for one of the central tenets of RSF performances, Philosophical and Attitudinal is a project that explores how we treat our audiences when we welcome them into our spaces – indeed, our houses. Our homes. How can we make our theatres feel like home to all of our patrons? How will this bring into focus the art we make and the reasons why we make it?

Artistic Statement
My artistic project has gone through at least four iterations. When any in-person performances became impossible, I recognized that my goal to “test” RSF tenets on an actual production would not exactly be able to come to fruition over Zoom. So, I scrapped any previous ideas and considered what I had access to from home. I suddenly remembered that I still had the recordings from my interviews that I reference in my critical paper.

Thus, this little podcast was born. It’s meant to be a more narrative exploration of the same concepts I cover in my paper, with three added benefits. First, it’s quicker to digest than an entire academic paper, for anyone who wants to get the scoop on RSF performances. Secondly, I’m able to discuss my own personal history with my thesis work and what brought me to the topic. And finally, I’m able to include, in their full glory, some truly wonderful quotes from an interviewee.

It has its flaws, of course. The interview audio isn’t of great quality, and I had less time to pull this together than I would have liked after being forced to switch concepts so last-minute. Also, I recognize that audio is inherently an inaccessible medium for some people. To combat this, I have added subtitles, which YouTube will have hopefully processed by the time you’re reading this, and the link to a full transcript. But overall, I’m proud of the product, especially in such limited time, and I think it does a good job of telling a story and exploring ideas that I hope will be new and interesting for listeners.

Artistic Project – Philosophical and Attitudinal