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'Making Light' Productions Promotes Inclusive Performing Arts For Kids All Abilities

Juliet Yaques (left) and Mandy Broadfoot (right) discuss "Making Light Productions" their start-up theatre group for people with disabilities.

A new non-profit theatre company is quickly expanding in Tallahassee. It’s market—adults and children of all abilities.

Eleven-year-old Katie Yaques attends the Florida Autism Center. And she loves to sing. In fact, as she sings along to the song "Somewhere" from West Side Story, it's easy to hear how good she is. She hits almost every single note. Katie is one of about two dozen kids who are part of a new theatre company startup in Tallahassee.

“Making light does three different things. The first thing we do is provide high-quality inclusive arts education to kids of all abilities," says Mandy Broadfoot, the lead teacher and creative mind behind Making Light Productions.

Broadfoot has always worked in the creative arts—from film to advertising. Her son, Billy is autistic. And joining her in the venture is Katie Yaques’ mom, Juliet. The women have a vision: to create a place where all students, regardless of their abilities, are included in the same space, united with the same goal.

 “Inclusion. It means students with a special need or developmental delay work alongside kids who are typical. It means sometimes that methods have to be adjusted, but quality doesn't have to suffer in the slightest," says Broadfoot.

And their following is quickly growing. Making Light already has more than 20 kids signed up. It’s quickly outgrown its current space: Broadfoot's Buck Lake home. So the program is expanding into downtown. A new facility will open in January which will offer music art, and dance. After that, a thrift store to employ people with disabilities, and further down the line—a movie theatre that will offer sensory-friendly films. Juliet Yaques says the rapid growth of the program shows her there’s an unmet need for such activities in the community.

"And we both knew it was there—my daughter recently transitioned from fifth grade to sixth grade, and I was really unpleasantly surprised at the change of services when you leave elementary school going into middle school. So much so, she’s going to a private school now. And that’s when it hit home for me, we need stuff out there for these kids.”  

That’s not to say there is a complete vacuum in Tallahassee for such programs. But many existing efforts focus on adults and provide workforce and life skill training. As it prepares to expand, Making light is looking for teachers. An education degree isn’t necessary but a love of kids, and passion for artistic expression, is required.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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