Meet our Accessibility Team

by Northlight Theatre
Accessibility Initiatives at Northlight

As part of Northlight’s continued efforts to break down barriers that make it difficult for members of the community to attend our shows, we have expanded our accessibility initiatives. For the 2021-22 season, Northlight is offering open captioned, audio described, and relaxed performances. For several seasons now we have worked with CaptionPoint, a team that provides captions for scripted theater and other live events to the d/Deaf and hard of hearing. That collaboration will continue this year as we offer an open captioned performance for each of our productions.

As a new initiative this season, we have also hired an audio describer for each of our shows. At an audio-described performance devices are available for patrons who are blind or have low vision which will allow them to hear live spoken narration of the action on the stage, along with descriptions of the scenery, costumes, lighting, and more.

Three of our productions will also offer relaxed performances, which are designed to make everyone feel safe and welcome. While relaxed performances include changes to better support individuals with autism and/or those with sensory sensitivities, everyone is welcome to attend a relaxed performance.

Meet the team of talented professionals that have been guiding Northlight through our accessibility initiatives:

Emily Wills (Audio Describer) is an Audio Describer, Actor, Teaching Artist, and Director born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Emily now lives in Madison WI, but returns to the city often to provide Audio Description for Northlight productions. Prior to the pandemic, Emily could also be heard describing performances for Lifeline Theater in Rogers Park. Other favorite projects include performing as the Mouse Queen in The Nutcracker (Mudlark Theater), Assistant Directing Miss Holmes (Lifeline Theater) and describing The Man Who Was Thursday (Lifeline Theater).
Ben Raanan (Accessibility Consultant) is a disabled theatre maker and advocate. His artistic focus is centralized around creating artistically rigorous theatre with, for, and about the disabled community. Ben is the Artistic Director at Phamaly Theatre Company, the longest running theatre company with a disabled aesthetic in the United States. Ben received his BFA from Drake University, and his MFA in directing from DePaul. In between, Ben spent five years at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati as a Director of Education and Outreach where he retooled the theatre’s educational offerings to focus on accessibility and inclusion for those with disabilities. Some of his favorite directing credits include: Macbeth (Spectrum Shakespeare), Antigone: Born Against, Eleemosynary, Bob: A Life In Five Acts, Crumble: Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake (Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati) Mockingbird (Falcon Theatre) Falling, King Oedipus, I & You (The Theatre School at DePaul University.)
Sara Perry (Accessibility Consultant) is a theatre artist and educator who holds an M.F.A. in Acting & Devising from The Ohio State University. While at OSU, Sara trained as a teacher and performer with The Royal Shakespeare Company, became a master teacher in the Hunter Heartbeat Method (HHM), and served as lead facilitator in the Shakespeare & Autism Project. In Chicago, Sara served as the Inclusive Education & Programs Manager at Chicago Children’s Theatre; where she taught drama to neurodiverse students, led residency programs with CPS, implemented an HHM curriculum, and managed an arts-based camp for students on the autism spectrum. She is the proud Co-Artistic Director of Spectrum Shakespeare, a Hunter Heartbeat based ensemble that creates original works for neurodiverse audiences.
Matthew Bivins (Open Captions) has been performing on stage since he was five and typing code into computers for almost that long. He and his brother Evan always preferred designing for non-profits and artsy types; becoming an advocate for accessibility was just the obvious (and correct) choice. Matthew is CEO and co-founder of CaptionPoint, a company that provides captions for scripted theater and other live events to the d/Deaf and hard of hearing.


For more information on our accessible performances, please visit our Accessibility page.