Performance At Ohio State Allows Autistic Children To Interact In Shakespeare's Play


Ohio State University and the Royal Shakespeare Company have teamed up to produce a special performance of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" for children with autism.

After shows in Europe, the play made its North American premiere Wednesday afternoon at Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts.

Kelly Hunter adapts and directs, “The Tempest” using a series of drama-based games that she has created over the last 10 years to help combat the challenges of autism.

The journey to Shakespeare's island in "The Tempest" begins with an invitation to sit with the actors.

The play is an intimate experience and children in the audience are encouraged to take part in a number of games.

The games help tell the story of “The Tempest” but also give the children something else.

"They allow the children to explore making eye contact, using speech and language, exploring their sensory awareness: their touch, their sight, their hearing and also their spatial awareness,” said Director Kelly Hunter.

Hunter says the games are part of what's called the "Hunter Heartbeat Method,” and are the result of her ten year 'Shakespeare and Autism' research project at Ohio State. 

"Through these games, which are gentle and go at the pace of the child, they do play and more to the point they love playing these games,” said Hunter “And they start to make eye contact and their speech and language improves and they start to communicate more sociably."

The production opened at Ohio State's Wexner Center for the Arts on Wednesday, July 16, and there will be another performance there Thursday. Other performances are scheduled for WOSU at COSI in downtown Columbus on July 19 and 20. The production is aimed toward 8-16 year olds.