We are Artists Breaking Limits & Expectations. Our mission is to provide artistic experiences through which individuals with cognitive and developmental differences feel accepted and empowered to discover their own unique voices, and develop the confidence and skills to share who they are and what they are truly ABLE to do!


PROGRAM goals

  • Empower the performer
  • Create a safe and respectful space
  • Enhance speech and communication
  • Encourage movement and physicality
  • Value teamwork and cooperation
  • Build focus and concentration
  • Celebrate creativity and spontaneity
  • Strengthen social skills by developing positive peer relationships
  • Share our experiences with each other and our community
  • Have fun!

Program History

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A.B.L.E. started in the fall of 2010 as the Teen Drama Troupe at GiGi's Playhouse Chicago. Initially a weekly meeting of 6 young actors with Down syndrome and 2 volunteer teaching artists, the program quickly expanded to two classes a week accommodating an ensemble of 17 actors led by a roster of dedicated teaching artists.  With GiGi's Playhouse, the troupe produced 7 stage productions, including adaptations of 4 Shakespeare classics and a completely original show, as well as a short film festival comprised of 2-5 minute shorts written by and starring the ensemble.

Inspired by the rapid success of this program, a group of core teaching artists branched out and founded A.B.L.E. in 2014 to expand creative opportunities for the special needs community. With administrative support from Chicago Children's Theatre, the group performed an adaptation of Adventures in Wonderland, and also devised an original production entitled What You Will around the theme of identity. In the Spring of 2016, A.B.L.E. performed an adaptation of Twelfth Night as part of Shakespeare 400 Chicago, an international festival curated by Chicago Shakespeare Theater to celebrate the legacy of William Shakespeare. 

A.B.L.E.'s first independent feature film, The Curse of the Tempest Jewel, was featured on "Your Chicago" on the CBS Evening News, in the Chicago Onscreen Local Showcase through Chicago Park District's Movies in the Parks program, and received the Award of Merit from The Accolade Global Film Festival. Their second film, The Spy Who Knew Me, premiered in the fall of 2017. 

A.B.L.E. - Artists Breaking Limits and Expectations became an independent 501c3 organization in 2016. Click here to read our first annual report. At present, the A.B.L.E. Ensemble is comprised of 20 actors ranging from ages 14 to 21, with plans to expand programming in the years to come!