A sensory-friendly show at Edmonds Center for the Arts

‘Red Kite, Brown Box’ designed for kids on the autism spectrum
By Brian Soergel | Oct 12, 2017
Courtesy of: ECA “Red Kite, Brown Box” is an interactive production for children on the autism spectrum.

Edmonds hasn’t seen anything like “Red Kite, Brown Box,” a production for children that makes its Washington state debut this weekend at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

“It is truly an immersive, interactive theatrical adventure,” said Chicago Children’s Theatre artistic director Jacqueline Russell, who created the show.

“It allows children on the autism spectrum to really engage and be themselves in an accepting and fun environment. There are lots of different activities that happen in the adventures to allow them to participate.”

Children are welcome to engage with the four performers or just watch.

“Some kids are very quiet and prefer to just observe,” Russell said. “Some just jump right in, sometimes at the top of show, and start singing with us. We’re all about meeting them where they are.”

The show is designed for children 5 and over with autism, but all age groups are welcome. School groups and families are invited to register for these interactive performances, which recur 10 times over the course of two days in ECA’s Center Classroom space.

“Red Kite, Brown Box" brings young audiences into the world of Papa Nick and his kids. The four specially trained teaching artists will gently guide children into a home filled with empty cardboard moving boxes, ideal for climbing and hiding inside, that also morph into magical forts, vehicles, and even robots.

Each showing is limited to an audience of just 12 children (each with a caregiver or parent) so all participants receive plenty of individual attention.

“We were so encouraged by the response after ECA’s pilot presentation of theater for kids on the autism spectrum last fall (“The Magic of Kevin Spencer,” in partnership with Edmonds Community College),” said Gillian Jones, ECA’s director of programming. “Families and teachers were sharing the stigma that students can face when they go to the theater, particularly around expectations of how to participate.

“As ECA works to become more welcoming and accessible to young people with special needs, Chicago Children’s Theatre’s visit is a really exciting step forward.”

Inspired by the book “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis, “Red Kite, Brown Box” is the sixth Red Kite installation created by Russell, recipient of the 2013 Hero of the Year Award from the Chicago chapter of Autism Speaks, and a former U.S. State Department Cultural Envoy to Canada due to her work with children with autism.

There are several shows under the “Red Kite” umbrella, which takes its name from a Sufjan Stevens song called “Sister” with the lyrics, “I have a red kite/I’ll put you right in it/I’ll show you the sky.”

It’s “Brown Box” because of the many sizes of cardboard boxes that participants can play with and in. “We want to do a piece to encourage kids and their families and friends to play at home, and playing with boxes is easy,” Russell said.

She said the cast is ready to go in Edmonds.

“I hire people who are theater-teaching artists, all with experience and open and warm hearts. This is much more about the audience than the performers. A lot of people who do this work end up making it the centerpiece of their professional life, and find it a perfect fit for their talents.”


“Red Kite, Brown Box”

Where: Center Classroom at Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N, Edmonds
When: Friday, Oct. 13, at 10 and 11 a.m., 12:30, 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 14, at 10 and 11 a.m., 12:30, 1:30 and 3 p.m.
Tickets: Pre-registration required. $8-$10 regular/$2 Arts for Everyone (free admission for care partners).
Information: Maximum 12 children per performance, with one family member or care partner. To register, call 425-275-9483 or email gillian@ec4arts.org
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