The Inclusion Players

Drama teacher pilots theatre program for people with intellectual disabilites

Theatre program promotes inclusion for people with disabiliites

It was good to see the queen again after all these years, Indiana thought. Strangely, it didn’t look like she’d aged a day, but before he could solve that mystery, the thieves arrived and chaos ensued.

“And then there’s a terrible car chase,” says Sue Proctor, director of Inclusion Winnipeg’s Inclusion Players theatre group. Sue has been working with the United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency for about four years, developing a theatre program for people with intellectual disabilities.

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Gramps Indiana and the Aged Necklace is the players’ latest production, which tells the tale of an elderly Indiana Jones and a stolen necklace with magical anti-ageing powers.

“They improvise. They do it differently every week. I never know how it’s going to go,” says Sue who directed the debut during an art show on November 21, 2019 at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.

Theatre program promotes inclusion for people with disabilities

Sue Proctor directs the Inclusion Players at their first public play.

A drama teacher and professional mime, Sue has worked with people with disabilities for the better part of 40 years. It all began when she met a director from the Manitoba Development Centre (MDC) in Portage la Prairie.

“I went in as an artist. I had never worked with people with disabilities, but they said, ‘No, this is what we want. We want someone without prior assumptions.’”

So Sue began with what she knows best: mime. She played music and followed a simple plot-line with plenty of improvisation, trying to engage her would-be students. She took note of how people responded and adapted as she performed.

“If you’re open to it, people can communicate with you,” Sue says. “Sometimes it’s with language, sometimes with sound, sometimes with just movements or gestures or smiles.

“I saw the benefits of this program for individuals. They just blossomed.”

The MDC program proved such a success that Sue launched similar programs with Deer Lodge Hospital, Canadian Mental Health Association, New Directions, Prairie Theatre Exchange and even Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. She was also invited to participate in a two-year research project with the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies, examining the benefits of the arts on quality of life for people with disabilities.

“We documented it all. We created a how-to manual. We had videos. And at the end we had a big event where we displayed the art of all the programs at the Millennium Centre.”  There was even a concert, dancing, workshops, and readings.

After a brief hiatus, Sue noticed a call for volunteers from Inclusion Winnipeg.

“They had an arts program called Among Friends that had been highly successful, and they wanted to expand. I told them what I’d really like to do is teach drama.”

Now in its fourth year, Inclusion Winnipeg donates space (a boardroom) and coordinates with clients. Groups average about 10-15 people. Each session is ten weeks long and culminates with a performance for family and friends.

As they get over the fear and the self-consciousness of moving and expressing themselves, it’s really incredible what they can do. They’re great. I mean, I just sit and laugh at how good they are.”

So good that Sue wanted to find other venues and audiences. That’s how the concert and art show at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church came to be.

What’s next, Sue ponders with a twinkle in her eye. “Maybe a Fringe show. We’ll see. That takes a whole lot of production. And a lot of promotion. Maybe one summer we’ll do it.”

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