February 1, 2018 — Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts announced today the lineup for the Big Umbrella Festival, an international endeavor that brings together arts professionals and thought leaders, and offers performances across New York City for children on the autism spectrum. Kicking off in April 2018, during Autism Awareness Month, the festival is the first of its kind dedicated to arts programs for young people on the autism spectrum and their families.
"Lincoln Center is not only dedicated to providing the best of the performing arts, but also to ensuring diverse and inclusive accessibility to that art,” said Debora L. Spar, President of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “Since we commissioned our first theater work specifically for those on the spectrum in 2013, we have had the privilege of offering sensory-friendly performances to students and families here at Lincoln Center. The Big Umbrella Festival expands our commitment to these audiences, offering performances throughout the city, special presentations by resident organizations across our campus, and a symposium to reinforce and develop the network of leaders dedicated to serving these audiences.”
The Big Umbrella Festival’s core objective is an outgrowth of the work Lincoln Center Education undertakes every season. The festival aims to enrich the lives of children on the autism spectrum through inclusive art that engages, educates, and inspires. Spanning April 10 to May 6, 2018, the festival will present a wide range of performances, including three original interactive theater works on the Lincoln Center campus and performances at the Queens Theatre for school groups from around the city.
Special presentations will be offered by Lincoln Center’s resident organizations throughout the festival, including film screenings, concerts, and interactive music and dance workshops by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts . Professional development for artists and administrators will span five days and bring together participants from across seven countries and 13 U.S. states and territories. A day-long symposium will provide a platform to expand the learning community around neurodiversity and the arts, bringing together leaders in the field and participants to explore best practices, analyze successes, and identify challenges related to artistic work that impacts the autism community at large.
“We have been presenting theater for young audiences on the spectrum for five years,” said Russell Granet, Executive Vice President of Lincoln Center Education. “We hear from children, parents, teachers, and artists that these experiences have a profound impact on audiences and their families. But we alone cannot fulfill the need for sensory-friendly performances here in New York or beyond. The Big Umbrella Festival will expand our performance offerings, engage partners across our campus and throughout New York City, and support other art-makers to create their own offerings for audiences on the spectrum.”
In 2013 Lincoln Center became the first major cultural institution to commission an original work for children on the autism spectrum, titled Up and Away. While some institutions have offered sensory-friendly programming or adapted versions of existing works, Up and Away’s model was groundbreaking because it was created specifically for an audience on the autism spectrum across all production aspects: script, design, and experience. Featuring an immersive installation design, the experience includes pre-show preparation materials, one-to-one interaction with actors, and an adjacent quiet room, among other features. In the years following, Lincoln Center continued this trailblazing model with a second original commission, Campfire , also from New York City’s Trusty Sidekick Theater Company—one of three theater companies that will participate in 2018’s Big Umbrella Festival. Joining Trusty Sidekick will be U.K.-based Oily Cart (Light Show) and AustralianSensorium Theatre (Oddysea), whose collaborative methodologies and international reach reflect the synergic mission of the Big Umbrella Festival.
The festival’s symposium will feature architect Sean Ahlquist, who leads Social Sensory Architectures, an ongoing research project at the University of Michigan that designs technology-embedded multisensory environments for children on the autism spectrum; Cynthia Barron of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, which recently debuted Julia, a Muppet with autism; Mickey Rowe, the first actor on the spectrum to play the lead role in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; and Tim Webb, Artistic Director of Oily Cart, whose company has been a leader in developing theater for children with complex disabilities.
Big Umbrella Festival
April 10–May 6, 2018
Theater for Children and Families
Up and Away
Trusty Sidekick Theater Company
New York, NY
April 14, 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm
April 15, 21, 22, 28, 29, May 5, 6
11:30 am and 2:30 pm
Clark Studio Theater
Up and Away is at once a story and an interactive experience, inspired loosely by the imagination of Jules Verne and his famous book Around the World in 80 Days. Seated in hot-air balloons, audiences join the Fogg Family Balloon Society on their 1,000th balloon ride. Featuring puppetry, live music, and interactive play, this “flight” travels through extraordinary places such as the Fog Bog, the Arctic Aviary, and Cloud Canyon, all with multisensory experiences. Each child in the audience has a one-on-one guide from the Fogg Family for the trip through the clouds.
April 14, 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm
April 15, 21, 22, 11:00 am and 2:00 pm
Samuels Teaching Studio
Creating distinct silhouettes in an exquisite play of light and shadow, Light Show brings audiences to a magical paper palace. The serene papery white landscape transitions from a beautiful warm day at the beach to a dreamy moonlit wonderland, creating a multisensory journey of textures, smells, and tactile experiences accompanied by live music from a virtuoso double bass player.
West Australia, AUS
April 28, 29, May 5, 6, 11:00 am and 2:00 pm
Samuels Teaching Studio
Set within a beautiful undersea world, this immersive tale of best friends Crab and Turtle’s oceanic adventures comes alive through touch, smell, taste, live music, and stunning imagery. Nestled on beanbag sand dunes, audiences become part of the “oddysea” unfolding around them. Starting at the shimmering gold satin sands of the beach, they journey with Crab and Turtle through sparkling blue-sequined waves to a kaleidoscopic crocheted coral reef, encountering many memorable oddities along the way.
Lincoln Center Education is partnering with the Queens Theatre for performances of Oddysea andLight Show for school groups from across the city.
14 United Nations Avenue South
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Oddysea (Sensorium Theatre): April 17-20
Light Show (Oily Cart): April 25-27
Relaxed Performances and Workshops Across Lincoln Center
Big Umbrella Festival Kickoff Event
April 14, 10:30 am
David Rubenstein Atrium, Free
Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could
Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Brady Rymer leads a whimsical Americana mashup, bringing his rootsy, accordion-laced pop and rock tunes to Lincoln Center for a relaxed Saturdaymorning show.
Made up of a group of young performers on the autism spectrum, and led by music therapist Gabriel Lit, the Actionplay Chorus performs their own original music in professional settings. In recent years, the Actionplay Chorus has performed with Weird Al Yankovic on Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars, with the Greenwich Village Orchestra, and at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.
Silent Clowns Film Screening
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
April 14, 11:00am
Bruno Walter Auditorium, Free
The Silent Clowns Film Series is NYC's longest-running regularly scheduled showcase for classic silent film comedy, presenting the silent movies of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, and others, with live musical accompaniment by renowned silent film composer Ben Model. This family-friendly program also features a Q&A by film historians Ben Model and Steve Massa.
Very Young People’s Concert: “Make-Believe”
New York Philharmonic
April 14, 4:00 pm
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
Musicians from the New York Philharmonic invite audiences on a playdate—where musical instruments are toys, songs become games, and kids can make believe whatever their hearts desire! Philippe the Penguin and host Rebecca Young lead audiences on a journey to make new friends and share in the fun of music. Designed by Philharmonic musicians together with faculty of Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, Very Young People’s Concerts combine games, storytelling, and music in one fun-filled hour that unlocks children’s imagination and talent. This Very Young People’s Concert includes pre-concert musical games with musicians and a half-hour hosted performance of Martinů’s La revue de cuisine, including audience participation and story with Philippe the Penguin.
Film Society Kids Screening and Discussion
Film Society of Lincoln Center
April 18, 5:00 pm
Francesca Beale Theater, Free
This special showcase presents a selection of ten of the best short films made by students in Film Society Kids, a program that supports literacy learning through visual storytelling. These shorts will immerse viewers in the art of the silent film, as seen through the eyes of children of all abilities from neighboring public elementary schools. The screening, welcoming community members of all ages and abilities, will be followed by an audience discussion with the Film Society’s Director of Education.
Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
LC Kids Storytime at the Atrium
April 21, 11:00 am
David Rubenstein Atrium, Free
At this relaxed story hour, Caldecott Award–winning illustrator Sophie Blackall (Ruby’s Wish, Ivy & Bean) explores the life of one lighthouse through shifting seasons, changeable weather, and the tenure of its final keeper.
Presented in collaboration with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Patron’s Lounge, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall
Registration $25 (includes child and adult)
WeBop is an early-childhood jazz education program for families which invites participants to stomp, strut and swing to the joyous rhythms of jazz as they learn about the core concepts, instruments, and great performers of jazz. With participation from both child and adult, these 45-minute classes offer a creative outlet for families to explore jazz through movement, songs, storytelling, and play.
Class 1: 2:00-2:45 pm | High sensory (teacher + accompanist, plus drums, bass, trumpet/saxophone) Recommended for children ages 5–7 years
Class 2: 3:00-3:45 pm | Low sensory (teacher + accompanist)
Recommended for children ages 2–4 years
Class 3: 4:00-4:45 pm | Low sensory (teacher + accompanist)
Recommended for children ages 5–7 years
NYCB Access Workshop
New York City Ballet
May 6, 1:00pm
Samuel B. and David Rose Building, 7th Floor
This one-hour movement workshop specially designed for children with autism will feature the music, movement, and themes from New York City Ballet’s treasured repertory. NYCB Teaching Artists guide children in a ballet warm-up and movement combination, concluding in a lively performance for accompanying family and friends. No prior dance experience needed.
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
May 6, 2:00 pm
Explore the up-close and friendly world of chamber music in the intimate Rose Studio. Host Rami Vamos and CMS artists show that the most personal of art forms speaks volumes to even the youngest listeners.
Symposium and Professional Development
Big Umbrella Festival Symposium: The Intersection of the Arts and Autism
Thursday, April 19, 9:00 am–6:00 pm
Sean Ahlquist, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University of Michigan
Cynthia Barron, Vice President of U.S. Social Impact, Sesame Workshop
Mickey Rowe, actor
Tim Webb, MBE, Oily Cart Artistic Director
How can the power of the arts be harnessed to impact young people on the autism spectrum as both audience members and artists? Lincoln Center Education leads a daylong investigation and discussion on the ways in which leaders from around the world are harnessing the power of the arts—including theater, film, digital media, and architectural installation—to open up new experiences for children with autism and their families.
Featuring a keynote presentation, panel discussion, and conversation, participants will join leaders in the field to explore best practices, analyze successes, and identify the challenges related to artistic work that impacts the autism community at large.
Artists and arts administrators from across seven countries and 13 U.S. states and territories will come together with leadership from Lincoln Center Education, Oily Cart, Sensorium Theatre, and Trusty Sidekick Theater Company to grow this field of work and broaden its impact. The professional development program offers two distinct tracks that provide best practices in creating and presenting for audiences on the autism spectrum. All participants, alongside members of the public, will come together for the Big Umbrella Symposium: The Intersection of the Arts and Autism.
The Artist Track will utilize live performances and master classes to explore topics including one-to-one performance style, specific needs of audiences with autism, content vs. form, specific design considerations, puppetry and multisensory storytelling, community devising, and rehearsal processes. Artists will create small pieces as part of the experience and share their work with their peers.
The Arts Administrator Track will utilize live performances and a series of seminars to study the considerations, benefits, and challenges of commissioning and presenting work for young audiences on the autism spectrum. Topics to be explored include performance best practices, artist development, audience experience considerations, staff training, scale vs. impact, and models for collaboration.