Back To School: A Letter from Our Founder

Dear A.B.L.E. Family and Fans,

It's back to school time for all of us at A.B.L.E. Our actors will head back into rehearsals on September 19th to start exploring the Charles Dicken's classic A Christmas Carol, and, over a decade since finishing my BFA in Drama from Syracuse University, I'm excited/nervous/proud/anxious to say that I'm going back to school too! Lawrence and I have been packing up our Chicago apartment and I'll be crossing the pond in just a few days to obtain a Master’s in Applied Theatre from The Royal Central School for Speech and Drama in London.

Applied Theatre is the practice of drama in non-traditional settings with marginalized communities. Anyone who has seen an A.B.L.E. performance knows that theater can be a powerful tool for education, therapy, and self expression. This course will give me more tools to help our actors devise their own performances and to ensure they have an outlet to develop and share their voices. A pivotal part of the program is working with existing arts organizations around London. I’m excited for this opportunity to expand my teaching toolbox and learn from other companies like Shakespeare's Globe, The RSC, Access All Areas, and more!

As with any big change, there is excitement. But there is also a healthy amount of trepidation and some sadness as well. A.B.L.E. is my family. It has been an incredible privilege to watch our actors grow and develop over the past 6 years. I will dearly miss having a weekly dance party and laughing and learning from our ensemble. 

It is hard to step away, but I have 100% confidence that the program is in capable, supportive hands. Lawrence will be traveling to LA and will focus on finishing The Spy Who Knew Me and also finishing some other writing and performing projects. While in London, I will stay on as President of the Board. Long-time Teaching Artist, Kendra Van Kempen will be my proxy and ensure the business side of things continues running smoothly. Peter Van Kempen will fill in as Interim Programming Director - setting the curriculum and any performance needs, training and coordinating with the other teaching artists, and serving as the point of contact for all of the ABLE families from registration all the way to the big show. Lindsay Stock will step up as Community Manager, communicating with and scheduling all of our volunteers, and keeping our social media sites and Blog active to share A.B.L.E.'s work with a wider audience. And Sean Okerberg and Kaylie Honkala are taking over as Teaching Artists for the Monday Ensemble, working with our actors each week to build confidence and other lifelong skills! 

While this year away will obviously facilitate my own growth as an artist, I believe it will do incredible things for A.B.L.E.'s growth as well! I am excited to have other people stepping up into leadership roles, and to see what ideas and energy they bring to the table. It’s been a valuable exercise to document our process, to create specific roles and duties, and to divide the workload. Through the next year we’ll be able to assess and refine our program infrastructure, and will be in a much better position to continue expanding programming to the special needs community in Chicago…and hopefully beyond!

Ten years ago, I never would have imagined being on this path, but I am so incredibly proud to be here. I am continually inspired by our actors and facilitators, and humbled by all of the support we've met along the way. I have learned so much from GiGi's Playhouse, Chicago Children's Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and all of our partners, and I cannot wait to connect us with an international audience. Our growth over the past 6 years has been nothing short of incredible, and I think it proves how much our program and others like ours are needed. The arts are magical and powerful and crucial, not just for children with special needs but for every child.  I am grateful for this opportunity to shape my future as a Teaching Artist and help steer A.B.L.E. into a new chapter at the same time. 

Thank you for your constant support and enthusiasm, and for championing the belief that everyone is ABLE. ABLE to connect. ABLE to contribute. ABLE to create.

See you in a year (at the premiere of The Spy Who Knew Me!)

With love and gratitude,

Katie Yohe