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Courtesy photo.




Andy’s Summer Playhouse 

2017 season
Where: Andy’s Summer Playhouse, 582 Isaac Frye Highway, Wilton
Contact: 654-2613, andyssummerplayhouse.org
Admission: $16 for adults, $8 for kids 18 and younger
George/Melissa, So Far: Thursday, July 20, Friday, July 21, and Saturday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 23, at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, July 26, at 2 p.m.; Thursday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, July 28, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, July 29, at 5 p.m.
Posted! Thursday, Aug. 10, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 11, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 13, at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 2 p.m.; Thursday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Aug. 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 19, at 5 p.m.
 
The Amazing Adventures of Arianna Astronaut
Nashua Public Library: 2 Court St., Nashua, Thursday, July 27, at 2 p.m.
Cedarcrest Center for Children with Disabilities: 91 Maple Ave., Keene, Tuesday, Aug. 1, at 1:30 p.m.
Crotched Mountain: 615 Francestown Road, Bennington, Wednesday, Aug. 2, at 1:30 p.m.
Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church: 25 Main St., Peterborough, Friday, Aug. 4, time TBD
Milford Town Hall: 1 Union Square, Milford, Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 11:30 a.m.
Temple Town Hall: 423 Route 45, Temple, Saturday, Aug. 12, time TBD
Cathedral of the Pines: 10 Hale Hill Road, Rindge, Sunday, Aug. 13, at 5 p.m.
Andy’s Summer Playhouse: 582 Isaac Frye Highway, Wilton, Monday, Aug. 14, at 5 p.m.




Exploring adversity
Andy’s takes on autism, bullying and transgender issues

07/20/17
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 “Adversity” is the theme for the Andy’s Summer Playhouse 2017 season, played out in all summer programming including The Amazing Adventures of Arianna Astronaut, which tours New Hampshire July 27 through Aug. 14.

Written and directed by Wyckham Avery, the new piece is about a girl with autism named Arianna who loves the stars, Neal deGrasse Tyson and astronauts. Whenever she wants to escape her noisy city or crazy classroom, filled with voices and colors, she pops on her space helmet and “travels” to different planets. Inspiration stemmed from Avery’s day job working as a paraprofessional in D.C. with kids who have learning or developmental disabilities.
“At Andy’s, we have kids that are not neurotypical. They still really enjoy and get a lot out of being at Andy’s, and I think kids that are neurotypical gain a lot from working with people who are different from themselves,” Avery said via phone. “My idea was to give neurotypical kids a chance to … kind of try to experience a little bit of what their world is like, and why they might have particular behaviors, and for someone on the spectrum to see themselves represented onstage.”
Avery devoured anything and everything she could on the topic while she wrote, including Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism by Ron Suskind and Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. She also put out social media calls to other educator friends requesting material.
“I didn’t want to misrepresent anything but share some of the insight I’ve [learned] by working with these students,” Avery said. 
Seven kids ages 9 to 14 bring The Amazing Adventures of Arianna Astronaut to life with the help of a two-foot handmade puppet, space jumpsuits courtesy of costume designer Ivania Stack and lots of props by visual artist Heather Stockwell. Because the kids are touring the play, there are no fancy lights or special effects, which also means it’s sensory-friendly for all viewers — i.e., free of loud sounds and lights that might bother viewers on the spectrum. 
“It’s a very audience-participatory show … and we’ll be in some really unconventional touring spaces, like town halls, nursing homes and libraries. We’re working on how to transform these spaces with just our bodies, voices and a few props,” Avery said. “It’s intense. Their arms get tired. Their brains get tired because they’re trying to remember lines and move the puppet at the same time. … But they always rise to the occasion.”
Avery said 60 to 80 kids typically visit Wilton every year to take part in Andy’s programming, either for original plays tackling tough subjects or workshops on playwriting, directing or filmmaking. Other mainstage productions this summer include George/Melissa, So Far July 20 through July 29, written by Alex Gino, adapted by Jess Barbagallo and directed by Brooke O’Harra, about a transgender kid afraid to audition for a school play, and Posted!, with a book by Owen O’Reilly, music by Duncan Pelletier and direction by Andy’s Artistic Director Jared Mezzocchi. That show spans Aug. 10 through Aug. 19 and is about bullying.
Mezzocchi said he and the board have planned themes for all seasons leading up to the company’s 50th anniversary in 2010. “Identity” was the theme for 2016, “legacy” is for 2018, “rebellion” is for 2019 and “2020” (referring to vision) is for 2020. These themes are helpful in devising plays and workshops but also prompt important dialogue. 
“I think these [themes] offer opportunities to have pretty sophisticated conversations with our children without an agenda,” said Mezzocchi, adding that there are also more workshops this summer than in years past. “Some families have a hard time committing to four to five weeks of rehearsals. We’re trying to make it more available. Our constant mission is to make sure everybody in the community feels the door is open. … And this gives us a chance to have more kids come through our doors.”
Mezzocchi, who just completed a residency at the MacDowell Colony working on a separate project, sees Andy’s as a mini-MacDowell for young and emerging artists in the field. Last summer, he helped establish the Greenhouse Initiative, a short residency program that featured Orange Grove Dance this summer. This way, kids can learn and be inspired by working artists, but usually, these visitors are inspired by the Andy’s kids as well. 
“The kids at Andy’s are sort of extraordinary. We tackle some big issues with them, especially this season. They’re very empathetic and very thoughtful,” Avery said. 





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