Monday, October 19, 2015

Frozen Light: An Immersive, Interactive Theater Experience

The smell of a forest after rain.  The sound of thunder.  The feel of wind and raindrops.  These are just a few of the features that the audience gets to experience at UK-based theater company Frozen Light's latest show, entitled The Forest.  Frozen Light specializes in creating performances for people with what is known as PMLD, or Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities.

The theater experience can be a memorable and rewarding one, but people with different abilities cannot always experience it in the same way many others do.  In a piece published by The Guardian, co-creators of Frozen Light Amber Onat Gregory and Lucy Garland quote the UK charity Mencap:

"Any event, no matter how awesome, is unlikely to have any relevance to most people with PMLD if it takes place some distance from them."

With that in mind, Frozen Light aims to create shows than can truly involve the audience.  Small performances—shows have a maximum of six attendees with PMLD, plus one caregiver each—mean that the performers can spend time with each individual, creating a truly interactive experience.

The cast is small, too—just three performers, including co-creators Gregory and Garland and fellow actor Al Watts.  While Garland narrates, Gregory and Watts act out the story of Thea and Robin, two characters who embark on life-changing journeys into the forest.  The audience is invited along for the adventure, with the cast bringing in props for them to feel and talking or singing directly to individuals.  Inclusion is a major focus of Frozen Light's productions, yet at the same time, so is making a person not feel badly if they do not want to participate.  The primary objective is simply to create something that meets the needs of people who aren't always able to participate in the world of theatrical storytelling.

Amber Onat Gregory and Lucy Garland studied together at the University of Kent in 2006, and during their time in the Applied Performance Masters program they developed their own kind of multi-sensory theater for a group of teenagers with PMLD.  After graduation the two created their own companies, but later reconnected in 2013 to form Frozen Light.  Their first show, Tunnels, premiered last year, and tour dates (UK only) for their second show The Forest are available here.

You can learn more about The Forest and Frozen Light on their website, in The Guardian, in The Stage, in The Social Issue, and other places as listed on Frozen Light's website.

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