Barrier-Free Theatre returns to Monon Community Center


Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation Barrier-Free Theatre has become a popular fixture.

“We are so fortunate to have a community who loves this program and helps it thrive,” said Sarah Fenster, CCPR Barrier-Free Theatre director. “We’ve also developed new ways to involve folks who are interested in the program, from stage crew to set painting to ushering and even directing – all aspects of our production are inclusive of people of all abilities.”

CCPR will present its sixth annual Barrier-Free Theatre performance in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March. This year’s performance, “Mystery at the Rider Mansion,” will be at the Monon Community Center at 6 p.m. March 16 and at 2 p.m. March 17. An American Sign Language interpreter will be provided for the March 16 performance.

Barrier-Free Theatre is a form of drama therapy that empowers individuals with and without disabilities to create and perform original stories together. The entire creative process takes about eight months to complete.

“The participants love the social aspects of rehearsals as much as they love the performance aspect,” Fenster said. “They enjoy collaborating to build a story, dreaming up characters that inspire and challenge them and feeling their hard work pay off when they perform in front of family, friends and community members. We also have a lot of fun bonding as a cast, playing theater games and celebrating our hard work.”

There are two directors, 20 participants and five volunteers. The plot of “The Mystery at the Rider Mansion” revolves around deep-seated jealousy and family conflict.

Fenster has been involved in the CCPR Barrier-Free program since 2019.

“The directors lead the cast through brainstorming, improvisation and voting that helps us select themes and ideas for the show,” Fenster said. “As a cast we build the performance one element at a time, with the participants sharing ideas and shaping the performance while the directors are there to help them narrow down ideas and put the pieces together. The script is written by the directors with the participants’ ideas and voices in mind, each role is built for the individual actor playing it.”

Tickets are $12 and are available for purchase online or in person at the Monon Community Center.

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