October was very much the Up and Away month. Previously featured in The New York Times, the immersive theatrical production has been enjoying extraordinary success and gained exciting media attention.
On October 4, WCBS-TV’s Diane Macedo interviewed Lincoln Center Education Executive Director Russell Granet and Trusty Sidekick’s Artistic Director Jonathan Shmidt Chapman (both alumni from the Program in Educational Theatre). A week later, Laura Collins-Hughes in The New York Times reviewed Up and Away in its Theater section. The review was glowingly positive, stating that “generosity and gentleness of spirit may be the two most striking features of… this joyous new show.” The reviewer also took note of Up and Away’s painstaking attention to technical detail. “[This] multisensory experience is a stellar example of how to connect with an underserved audience by identifying obstacles… Every element of the show has been made with the audience in mind, from the warm, tuneful greeting in the lobby…to the set’s walls.”
On October 23, WNBC Nightly News featured a segment on what it called “one of the hottest tickets in town for a theater experience unlike any other.” WNBC and anchor Anne Thompson interviewed Mr. Chapman and Mr. Granet and focused the camera on the performance, with its visibly enchanted audience and a deeply moved mother who fought back tears to say: “It’s so nice to go someplace… where you’re welcome.”
Up and Away is not merely a show that makes the effort to accommodate a special audience, but an experience entirely designed for that audience. Two years of thoughtful observation and work with students on the autism spectrum were a part of the development process, and in that sense, Up and Away was designed by the audience.