Possibilities not Limitations: An evening about autism and talent development July 26 at the Boom Chicago Comedy Festival 2021
Join us Monday, July 26 for a celebration of autism and the talent that comes from the underappreciated autistic brain. Boom Chicago CEO Saskia Maas hosts an inspiring line-up including Boom alum Suzi Barrett, who just completed a film with non-traditional actors, a panel including Dr. Marcia Goddard Head of People and Culture for Tony’s Chocolonely , the young talent of InterActing, and Fabian Franciscus, the Dutch comedian on the spectrum.
The Possibilities not Limitations program:
17:00 — It’s 5:00 o’clock Somewhere Happy Hour with drinks and snacks in the Festival Bar
18:00 – A Comedy Conversation with Suzi Barret (from Disney’s Just Roll with It)
18:30 – Making Connections: A panel discussion about talent and the autistic brain including Dr. Marcia Goddard (Head of people and Culture for Tony’s Chocolonely)
20:00 – Fabian Franciscus, stand up comedian on the spectrum (in Dutch).
The Comedy Conversation with Suzi Barrett is an uninhibited, hilarious interview with CEO Saskia Maas. They talk about Suzi’s life, career in comedy and her recent project with Zeno Mountain Farm camp, an organization dedicated to fostering lifelong friendships between different types of people. Their first feature length film Best Summer Ever premiered at the SXSW film festival this spring, up-ending the way that disability is usually portrayed in pop culture. The movie is full of disabled characters, but the film isn’t about disabilities. Rather the film is about love, identity and following your heart… starring talented actors (and crew) of every age and ability.
Making Connections is a panel discussion about the brain and the possibilities of autism. The limitations are well documented, but people on the autistic spectrum have skills relating to order, detail and connecting things. If these traits could be better catalogued and understood we would go a long way to not just keeping autistic people busy, but unlocking these unique skills to benefit employers and society.
The panel ends with a short video performance from the amateur students of InterActing. InterActing is Boom Chicago’s non-profit theater program that encourages teenagers and students with autism through improvisation skills to break out of their patterns of ritual and routine to embrace the unexpected. These life skills help young people with autism to become more confident and to enjoy interacting with the (non-autistic) world around them.
Fabian Franciscus is a charming and successful Dutch standup comedian who is on the spectrum. One of his skills is to balance when those two things build on each other and when they collide. In the Netherlands, he won the Leeuwarder Cabaret Festival and the Comedy Slam. Abroad, he plays at bigger comedy clubs in New York, Berlin, Stockholm and London. He is a frequent guest on TV shows like De Slimste Mens, Spijkers Met Koppen, Na Het Nieuws and Kopspijkers and several of his comedy videos have gone viral. He will be playing a set from his latest show De Kleine Wereld. The show is in Dutch.
Social interactions are often a big challenge for a teenager with autism. At this age they also come to realize that they are ‘different’ than their peers. It can be difficult to make friends, and they may feel misunderstood and isolated. Our classes help these teenagers to be more socially resilient and aware. We do this in a safe environment with a focus on joy with their peers.
Joy We give this classes for a while, and we were curious about the experience of our participants and their parents. That is why we talked to Evita, Jurre’s mother. Jurre has done the course four times already. “He loves to play with the teenagers his age. By playing and the scenarios he really lets loose and has the confidence to come out of his comfort zone. Along the way he has a lot of fun as well.”
Freer The courses also have an effect on the daily life of her son. “In the past he completely withdrew when someone approached him on the street. I now notice he is more confident to react in unexpected situations. His fear for strangers has also lessened.
In Class Evita drops Jurre off to class and often stays to watch Jurre. “I think Lizz (the trainer) is very inviting and enthusiastic. Her approach is always positive and every attempt, not matter how small, is valued and appreciated by her. Whatever the participants do is totally okay and that is good for their self-empowerment and developing free communicative skills.” The classes are in English and there is always an interpreter present. Jurre does not seem to need it though. “Do you know what is so special? Jurre does not think he is very skilled in languages, but he always fiercely tries to speak English.
Valuable That the course has actually helped Jurre is very valuable for Evita; “InterActing helps teenagers to come out of their shell. You give them the tools to, for example, communicate with people they do not know, in a light and playful way. You make sure Jurre is more comfortable and connects with others easier. Only for that reason I am happy to let him participate.
Because of her youngest son she is an experience expert in the field of autism. And because of her work she knows everything about improvisation theater. This is how Saskia Maas developed a theater program, together with her husband, to provide young people with autism social tools.
Read the Dutch article here. An English translation will follow soon.
Read the original article in the Telegraaf (in Dutch) here.
For some kids with autism, carrying a conversation or going to school can be a real challenge, but at theater school Inter-Acting a group of twenty teenagers is willing to face the ultimate challenge: going up on stage, improvising, and telling jokes. Co-founder Saskia Maas, also the CEO of comedy collective Boom Chicago, even saw her own son glow up through this special project. (more…)
In July 2018 Boom Chicago celebrated their 25th anniversary with a beautiful program in Carre. Alumni performers like Seth Meyers and Ike Barinholz returned to Amsterdam for this special occasion and also comedy friends such as Arjan Lubach joined on stage. The proceeds of the evening went to InterActing.