Staff Spotlight: April Crowley, Artistic and Equity Coordinator
Posted on December 11, 2023
April Crowley recently joined the team at CTC, relocating from western MA. Her academic background is in ethnomusicology, which is a long word for music in/as human culture, and especially what one might consider “folk music” or “traditional” music outside of the Western musical canon. As Artistic and Equity Coordinator, April is instrumental in organizing sensory-friendly performances and researching and performing outreach activities to various local affinity groups we want to engage with around specific programming, among many other responsibilities. We sat down with April to ask some questions about what her position entails and how she’s enjoying CTC so far.
CTC: Tell us a little bit about yourself!
AC: I am a lapsed performer who went into arts administration to help important art get made, because I truly think that art, and in my case especially time-based art like live theatre and music, is one of the most deeply impactful and human things you can experience. I am a singer and have experience in musical theatre from my school days. My academic background is in ethnomusicology, which is a long word for music in/as human culture, and especially what one might consider “folk music” or “traditional” music outside of the Western musical canon. I recently relocated for my job at CTC from western MA, which is a very rural area; the last theatre company I worked for (in grants and development) was literally on a farm! I come from Cape Cod, MA originally. I have a wife named Rory and a Pomeranian named Hazel, and a million and a half un-pursued hobbies and interests!
CTC: What is your role at CTC?
AC: I am CTC’s new Artistic and Equity Coordinator! I’m still learning all of the things that the role encompasses, but so far I have been instrumental in organizing sensory-friendly performances of the three shows that have been performed since I began in October, working with Michael Winn in Community Partnerships and Inclusion to coordinate JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) training and education opportunities for staff and to partner with local affinity groups around specific programming. The hope is that these connections develop into ongoing and mutually beneficial relationships with a diverse group of constituents for the theatre.
CTC: What goes into planning Sensory Friendly Performances, and what makes them different from the original version of a given show? And what’s your main role in assisting with them?
AC: The sensory-friendly shows try to respond to the needs of our audience members who are on the autism spectrum. We work with a partner organization called Fraser, who sends adult representatives early in the run of a show to see a production and give us notes on how to make it more accessible to their youth clients who are autistic. Once we get the notes, I communicate with the show’s stage manager to strategize around how to implement sensory-friendly changes to the show without reducing its artistic impact. Typically, all sensory-friendly shows involve a general lowering of the stage lights and soundscape volume, and the house lights remain on at a low level throughout the performance. The audience may have access to quiet space and other sensory dampening tools to help them enjoy the experience. We have a strategy called “glow stick moments,” which ideally serves to “warn” audiences of potentially overstimulating moments in a show before they happen, if for some reason we decide they can’t be reduced or removed. We have not had to implement any glow stick moments since I have arrived at CTC; the stage managers know what’s up! I have also been the voice on the mic for the curtain speech preceding sensory-friendly showings of Cookin’ and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. The curtain speech is a brief announcement I customize for each show with a reminder that Fraser reps are at each show to help audience members if they need it, a land acknowledgement, and specific content and sensory warnings that apply to the show overall.
CTC: What is a Social Story, and why is this resource helpful for patrons?
AC: A social story is a clinical tool used to help people on the autism spectrum understand social expectations in new situations and environments. It is a document that includes relevant images and simple, first-person statements of what to do in different situations in a space. We are in the process of updating stories for each of our performance spaces, which will be available on the website for families to access prior to each performance to help their family members on the spectrum understand what to do to best enjoy their theatrical experience.
CTC: Those duties seem to fall under the “equity” side of your title. What sorts of responsibilities do you have that fall under the “artistic” side of your position?
AC: The two aspects of my title/role are definitely intertwined, because my work with JEDI initiatives overlaps heavily with the programming decisions of the artistic team. I collaborate with them to stay aware of upcoming programming and opportunities to engage affinity groups and diverse communities and even devise pre- and post-show activities, talkbacks and meet & greets. Recently, I was a point of contact, along with Cortney Gillam, our Generation Now Fellow, in organizing the Lunch and Learn opportunity with Dustin Tahmahkera. Dustin is the playwright for our Generation Now production, Comanche Girl on the Moon. Internal lunch and learn opportunities going forward will focus on topics outlined in our Anti-Racist/Anti-Bias plan as well as more face time with playwrights so that folks in different areas of the company can understand more about the artistic process.
CTC: What has been your favorite thing about working for CTC so far?
AC: The people! Everyone has been so kind and taken me into the fold so quickly even though the environment is very new and different for me. I love that it is a place that is diverse in lots of ways, intergenerational and it feels like everyone truly tries to live the mission. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to get back onstage even if it’s just on a mic behind a curtain, and I feel valued and excited to see what I can learn and provide for our audiences.