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Theatre company invites people with disabilities to attend free relaxed shows

Think Tank Theatre
Posted at 3:46 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 16:25:51-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Going to the theater can be a magical experience, but unfortunately, it can also be a stressful one for people living with disabilities. So ThinkTank Theatre is trying to change that by offering free relaxed performances at the Straz on February 5 and 12.

“I’ve been doing theater since I was very, very small and I can’t imagine not having it in my life so it’s really exciting to see people experience it for the first time,” said ThinkTank Director Brianna Larson.

Larson is used to focusing on the actors on stage, but this month, the people in the audience are gaining just as much attention.

“And this is a really unique opportunity to welcome community members who may have special needs or disabilities into the theater,” said Larson.

They call it a relaxed performance, where audience members are encouraged to just be themselves.

“Gives a sense of accessibility and inclusion that our theater community should really be fostering more often,” said Larson.

Two of the lead actresses in the upcoming play, “All The Great Books,” are especially proud to be participating in something that’s so positively Tampa Bay.

“It’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart because I am a member of the disabled community and I love theater,” said actress Katie Calahan.

Calahan has cerebral palsy. She said something as routine as going to the bathroom can be very difficult in a dark auditorium.

“I’m doing it for everybody, you’re all welcome to come and sit here and we’ll keep the aisles clear, and the lights up, so you can find your way,” said Calahan.

Then there’s Katie Huettel who lives with Tourettes Syndrome.

“You’re really really close in the seats and let’s say you have a hand tic and like you hit somebody by accident you’re always worried about that,” said Huettel.

Huettel said the key is no one is judging you, there is a bond of understanding. She said these types of shows weren’t around when she was a kid.

“So I really want to be part of the change,” said Huettel.

“All The Great Books,” runs from Feb. 4-13 at the Shimberg Playhouse, Straz Center for the Performing Arts. The relaxed shows are Feb. 5 and 12 at 3 p.m. For more information go to