Thanks for your interest in joining A.B.L.E.!

We believe that everyone is A.B.L.E. to connect, to contribute, and to create…including YOU! This page will answer some common questions about our programs to help you decide if A.B.L.E. is the right fit for you.

If you have additional questions that are not answered here, click here to email us.

Who can participate in A.B.L.E.?

A.B.L.E. welcomes participants who identify as having an intellectual or developmental disability such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or autism. A.B.L.E.’s core ensembles are open to participants ages 15 and up. Most of our ensemble actors are currently in their 20’s or 30’s.

Our In the Wings ensemble welcome actors 13 and up.

Do you really think EVERYONE can do this? What if I struggle with memorizing lines? What if I communicate best non-verbally? Can I still join?

Yes, we really believe everyone is A.B.L.E. to connect, to contribute, and to create. But we also know everyone learns and communicates in different ways. Over the years, we have developed a methodology that ensures everyone is able to enjoy the spotlight, regardless of literacy, communication style, or short-term memory. We build our performances to play to the strengths and interests of our performers. AAC devices are welcome and encouraged, as is sign language. And if you can’t get “off book”, that’s okay too.

Some of the tools we use to engage different learning styles in rehearsal include:

  • Social Stories

  • Visual aids

  • Sign Language

  • Sensory supports like fidgets, headphones, or sunglasses

  • A 2:1 ratio of actors to support staff

That said, A.B.L.E. staff cannot provide bathroom assistance or administer medications.

How much does A.B.L.E. cost?

A.B.L.E.’s suggested pricing is:

  • 6 Week Course = $175

  • 12-week course = $450.

We know that individuals with disabilities and their families may face many financial challenges. A.B.L.E. is committed to ensuring our programs are financially accessible for everyone. You can self-select the pricing that works for you at registration. We also offer payment plans for our semesters.

Additionally, A.B.L.E. offers a Technology Assistance Initiative to help our ensemble members participate in Virtual Programming. We can loan equipment like iPads, laptops, hotspots, or WiFi boosters to help you connect during rehearsal. You can request support during registration.

Where and when are rehearsals and performances?

A.B.L.E. is an itinerant company and works with several different venue partners around the Chicagoland area for workshops, rehearsals, and performances. Every session is different, but we currently have partners in the Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, The Loop, and Edgewater.

We also offer Virtual sessiond that rehearse via Zoom.

How can I sign up?

Registration for our ensembles typically opens in July and January.

Workshops and other special programs have rolling registration. These opportunities are announced to our program mailing list as they become available. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

I know someone else in the ensemble. Can I be in a group with my friend?

All spaces are filled on a first come, first served basis. Space is limited. We cannot make any guarantees about who will be in your ensemble. Sign up early to avoid disappointment.

I’ve never worked with A.B.L.E. before. Are there special requirements for first time actors?

If you are new to A.B.L.E. (even if you’re not new to theatre), you should start off with In the Wings. This is a shorter semester designed to get you comfortable with our rehearsal structure, build some relationships, and learn some of the key activities and vocabulary used in our creative process before joining an ensemble.

We will also have a bit more paperwork for you before you can get started.

  • Sign and return our program waiver and photo release forms.

  • Fill out the New Actor Questionnaire to let us know a bit more about your personality and how you communicate.

  • Schedule a 20 minute introductory call with a member of our programming team and one of our veteran ensemble members. This is a time for you to ask questions and get to know us and how we work!

What happens in rehearsal?

A.B.L.E. sessions are 90 minutes. Activities vary every week, but every rehearsal (even the ones on Zoom) follow the same basic format, so you’ll know what to expect:

  • Dance Party

  • Warm up

  • Check In

  • Group Activities

  • Check Out

  • Closing

You will receive a social story with more details before your session.

If I sign up for an ensemble, do I have to come to rehearsal every week?

Theatre-making is a team effort. Because ensembles are working towards a final project, attendance is important. We expect that actors who commit to a core ensemble will make rehearsal a priority. You should plan to attend every rehearsal.

If you need more flexibility, or a shorter commitment, the In the Wings might be a better fit for you.

Can parents or family members watch rehearsal?

To foster agency and independence for our actors, A.B.L.E. has a closed-door policy for our sessions, including virtual sessions.

We invite family members to join the ensembles for semester orientation to see what is happening in rehearsal and get to know our teaching team. We also host open sessions periodically throughout the year if you want to learn more about what happens in rehearsal.

Who leads A.B.L.E.’s sessions?

Every A.B.L.E. session is led by 2 Teaching Artists. Teaching artists plan rehearsal activities, make support materials, and direct our performances.

Teaching Artists are supported by 3-5 Facilitators in every session. Facilitators are volunteers who assist the actors and the Teaching Artists by demonstrating activities, partnering with actors, and leading some activities like warm ups. Facilitators can also offer extra coaching and support for actors who need more time, or need things explained in a different way.

A.B.L.E.’s Teaching Artists and Facilitators come from a range of personal and professional backgrounds. Many of them work in fields like theater and film, education, or disability advocacy. All Teaching Artists and Volunteers undergo regular background checks. A.B.L.E. also offers regular training and professional development opportunities for our staff and volunteers to learn best practices for working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Our outreach programs are also supported by our team of Creative Associates. These are veteran ensemble members who have been trained to co-lead sessions with our teaching team. We’re proud to be an inclusive employer - “nothing about us without us!”

A.B.L.E. occasionally partners with guest artists for special workshop opportunities. These guests co-teach with one of A.B.L.E.’s regular Teaching Artists to ensure sessions meet our familiar structure.

You can see photos and read bios for our Teaching Team on the “Our Team” page.

Do you provide transportation?

A.B.L.E. cannot assist with arranging transportation. However, we try to ensure our rehearsal venues are within 0.5 miles from public transportation stations, and/or have access to free parking. Ensemble members can also claim reimbursement for transportation to/from rehearsals.

If you would like A.B.L.E. to come to you, contact us about our Outreach Programs. We send our Teaching Artists and Creative Associates to schools, community centers, residence homes, and other organizations to lead workshops and residencies. For more information about A.B.L.E.’s Outreach Program, click here to contact Executive Director Katie Yohe.