There is a lot of fine work being done at the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (CIL), a private non-profit organization dedicated to creating a community and supporting men and women living with disabilities in Washtenaw County. By charter decree, 50 percent of CIL staff must have a disability — which means not only does the Center provide a place for people with disabilities to find meaningful work, but it also serves as an example and inspiration for those living with a disability to dedicate themselves to helping others.
The CIL focuses on areas like Community outreach and advocacy, independent living support, staffing and rehabilitation resources, embraced in a culture of peer support and appreciation. One program demonstrating peer-support is Diversability Theatre. Running each Wednesday at the CIL, the performance program brings people with disabilities together to express themselves.
Chris Baty is the Diversability Theatre and Toastmasters Coordinator for the CIL.
“We try to use theatre games to help people grow, build confidence, express themselves, and build teamwork. We also feature a free, home cooked meal — donations are encouraged. Members are encouraged to help prepare the meal and clean up. This also builds a sense of fellowship amongst our members.”
Baty has a core group of about seven participants, but as many as 20 people come out for the mix of collaborative improvisational theatre and movement. Diversability Theatre welcomes everyone from teens to adult into the program.
“We always start with warm-ups, both physical and vocal, then we do teamwork exercises, like passing around a movement/sound. What we do after that really varies depending on how many new people are there,” said Baty. “We like to start very basic with the “Introduction Exercise” entering the stage, saying your name and going off. We like to vary that by coming on with a character, like a Lion, for example, and introducing yourself. We add a prop, or a dance or movement, etc. Then we introduce ourselves two or three at a time and start to build a scene.”
After getting to know each other, members build a scene, movie, music, poetry, art work — whatever feels right in the moment. It’s all about creating a safe space that allows for creative expression and fun.
Diversability Theatre runs every Wednesday
night from 5-7pm at the
Ann Arbor CIL | 3941 Research Park Dr.
734-971-0277 | annarborcil.org