Professional Theater for the Special Needs Community
words and photos by Gray Giaconia
The lights dim in the intimate black box theater that is home to None Too Fragile Theater. The actors walk on stage for the first of the day’s two shows, which are the final performances of the theater’s summer show, “An Impending Rupture of the Belly” by Matt Pelfrey. The first row of seats is only several feet from the actors. In this row sits Seá Derry, watching raptly as the stage lights come up and the play begins.
Seá is the daughter of Sean Derry and stepdaughter of Alanna Romansky, the co-creative directors and owners of None Too Fragile. Seá has Rett Syndrome, and Sean and Alanna struggle deeply with the exclusion Seá faces from the outside world. Sean has always done everything he can to give Seá the full life she deserves.
“Their lives tend to be limited,” Sean says. “She can’t talk, she has no fine motor skills, she needs fed, she needs bathed [and] she needs dressed. You want her to have a world and you don’t want that world to just be a television screen or a computer screen, or out the window of a car. You want her to be able to experience.”
Seá had not been able to see any shows at the theater in the past, so Sean came up with Seá’s Night as a way to share his love of theater with her. Seá’s Night gives those with special needs the opportunity to see accessible live theater. Some of the cast and crew of “An Impending Rupture of the Belly” had previously worked with None Too Fragile and were instantly supportive of Sean’s idea. They were eager to help, but this meant learning how to edit the show, taking a chance on a new idea and doing two performances in one day. For them though, it was worth it.
This particular performance was the inaugural Seá’s Night, but from now on, it will be a staple of None Too Fragile’s schedule, with one Seá’s Night per play. Certain changes to the play are made for this performance—the sound is lowered, strobes are cut out and an intermission is added to make it accessible to people with special needs.
“I think introducing this to the community will make the community better because of Seá,” Alanna says. “Because of Sean and the family’s love for Seá.”
Rett Syndrome gives Seá anxiety that can lead her to vocalize at any time. People who have trouble staying still (such as from Parkinson’s disease) or can’t sit down for long periods of time and need to get up might have trouble at most performances.
But not being able to conform to the expectations of a general audience shouldn’t keep someone from being able to enjoy live theater and be part of this community entertainment. During a Seá’s Night performance, no one needs to worry about making noise, moving, getting up or anything else that they can’t control.
Throughout the performance, Seá watches happily while Sean and Alanna sit beside her, smiling that they could create this for her and smiling that they are creating this event for the entire community.