AZARIA PITTMAN-CARTER, 20
Azaria Pittman Carter is an aspiring poet and public speaker. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Pittman-Carter has always had a deep passion for the city where she lives. She believes that one of the most important things about being a wholesome citizen is giving back to and being aware of your community and your world.
She is a sophomore majoring in education at the University of Cincinnati and sees an opportunity to lead by mentoring students frequently at Wordplay Cincinnati, performing speeches, and volunteering. Pittman-Carter finds that volunteering encourages a strong sense of empathy, a characteristic that is severely lacking in the world today. Though there are many things that could or should be changed in this world, Pittman-Carter chooses to champion mindfulness. She says that if everyone in this world was just a little bit more open-minded, we would see doors open for equality, inclusiveness, and acceptance.
Pittman-Carter is also a passionate advocate for middle childhood education, and embodies diversity and confidence. Being the eldest of four younger siblings, Pittman-Carter says that she feels she was born to lead others. Pittman-Carter views her writing persona as that of a public speaker and MC. She writes motivational speeches on various topics but always tries to focus on subjects that are close to her heart, such as youth empowerment and social justice. Throughout her speaking career, she has realized how powerful her voice is, and that she can use it to move people with soulfulness and serenity.
Pittman-Carter plans to devote herself to the reform of the American education system, striving to become a public middle school teacher and work in the field of political education reform and decision-making.
Autism Friendly Theatre
An excerpt from the article “Autism Friendly Theater”
by Azaria Pittman Carter
Theatre has provided a home for many people of different backgrounds. Augusto Boal, founder of the theatre of the oppressed, once said, “Theatre is a form of knowledge; it should and can also be a means of transforming society. Theatre can help us build our future, rather than just waiting for it” (Boal, xxxi). In this way, theatre is important. It brings people together to laugh, cry, and reflect on the things that make us all alike. In misunderstood communities, such as those as the LGBTQ+ community and people with cognitive disabilities, there needs to be a safe place that provides joy. In America, there are many people who suffer from social and cognitive disabilities. One that especially affects many people is autism. Autism affects 1 in 68 children and there is currently no cure for it. Autism can be identified at a young age through a child’s lack of social and developmental skills, which causes many people who suffer from Autism to have poor social and coping skills throughout their lives (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes). However, the theatre has been proven to be an important place for those on the spectrum. Autism-friendly theatre calls for specific preparations to a certain show and provides a home for people on the spectrum.
[A]s a form of aid, the Theatre Development Fund website provides information for every show that will have a sensory friendly performance. Online, provided by TDF, are performance guides. Performance guides give step-by-step information on the experience of a show. The TDF provides character guides, social narratives, as well as guides for attending are specific to each Broadway show. In each shows social narrative, which can be printed out at home, there is a step-by-step process of what will happen from the point of arrival at the theatre, to when the audience watches the show. These are extremely helpful to the audience members because it helps the family members get a sense of what they will be bringing their child into. TDF tries very hard to make sure the audience members have a safe and enjoyable experience while in a very busy city that can be overwhelming for even those without autism.
Theatre has had such a positive effect on the lives of individuals. David Petrovic, a motivational speaker, teacher, author, and actor, discusses how musical theatre was an outlet for him as a person on the spectrum. He recommends children with Autism to do “theatre as a way to improve one’s social skills and boost morale and confidence” because “growing up on the autism spectrum, musical theatre was my therapy” (Petrovic). Former Lion King ensemble actor Derrick Davis was able to have first hand experience on how these performances affect audience members. In an interview, Derrick Davis, discussed the changes made to the performance. He said the best part of it is that “the lights aren't completed dimmed, [so] we get to see the audience’s faces and their excitement” (Magro). Lisa Carling, the Director of Accessibility Programs at the Theatre Development Fund, also provides insight into the program’s goals. She explains, “We want this to be something special and wonderful for families to do together. We didn’t want to alter the story or acting in anyway [but], if artistically possible was if technical adjustments could be made in sound and lighting to make the product more sensory friendly” (Magro).
Overall, Autism Friendly Theatre is an amazing initiative that has been set forth by organizations like the Theatre Development Fund and Autism Speaks. Many people do no know that these shows exist. The autism-friendly performances are only available to those with autism, or accompanying someone with autism. These are very special performances, as they allow people who process things differently to enjoy something just like others. There are special accommodations provided to make these performances as enjoyable for the targeted audience as possible. Many Broadway shows have decided to conduct sensory friendly performances, since The Lion King. This initiative has been growing since 2011, and can only increase with awareness.
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