James' 18th Birthday Party
James' mother Carol contacted us with a unique request. Her son James was about to turn 18 and she wanted to have a party with family and his friends from school to celebrate. She was looking for an entertainment option that would be unique and fun for everyone in attendance from James' other teenage friends to his 98 year old grandmother. Carol had heard from a friend that we often perform our show THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF WHATEVER YOU WANT at kids birthday parties and thought she would contact us to see if it was an appropriate option for her son's party. James, she explained, has autism and the friends who would be attending--all from his class at school--also have special needs. Though James' intellectual capabilities are more like those of an 8 year old than an 18 year old, his mother knew James wouldn't appreciate any "babyish" entertainment and so wondered if our show would be a good fit.
WHAT WE DID TO PREPARE:
We affirmed that our show would indeed be a good fit. We knew from experience that this format has wide appeal. Often, if we are hired to perform at a 7 year old girl's birthday party say, parents, grandparents and younger or teenage siblings in the next room will hear the laughter coming from our audience members and come and join in the fun. Also, as it is an improvised show, our actors are able to adapt in the moment and play off audience reactions. As the story we perform is based largely on audience suggestions, it's guaranteed that the story will reflect what audience members want to see. Finally, I assured Carol, that after performing this show format more than 500 times over the years, our actors have seen it all and are expert enough to adapt to any situation and able to engage almost any audience member. Carol specified some of James' interests (science fiction, physical comedy, running etc.) so we would know leading up to the event some useful references we could include.
ON THE DAY OF THE PARTY:
James' birthday party was held in his family's condo party room in downtown Toronto. Carol had wanted to ensure that it was an 'evening party' so that James would feel more grown up, but didn't want the event to go on too late as James was participating in a race the next morning. We decided that 7 p.m. would be an ideal show start time,and then the guests could have pizza and cake etc. after the show. Our 3 actors arrived around 6:20 p.m. and had a wonderful time meeting all of James' guests and talking with them about their interests too. We cleared an area in the condo room to use as a stage and at 7 p.m. started the show. It was a huge hit! Right away James and his classmates were eager to offer suggestions and I could tell that Carol was relieved they were so engaged... Soon after the story got under way, all of the other guests also started to participate. 10 minutes in both James' 4 year old cousin and his elderly grandmother had already made suggestions. Participant's ideas were both inspiring and hilarious and we ended up constructing a wonderful and complex story. Everybody laughed a lot. Carol and her husband were thrilled with the result. "I have to admit" she said "I did have confidence that your company could pull it off, but I was a bit nervous knowing that it was all improvised... that nothing was prepared. I was so afraid that the boys would be too shy to participate- but they LOVED it! This was even better and more fun than I could have imagined! Thank you!" We too, as performers were very pleased with the show that James and his guests had helped us create and we were so glad we could offer some fun and engaging entertainment for this special event.
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