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OpenSpot Theatre expands to Traverse City

Open Spot Theatre offers acting, singing and dancing to people who may be traditionally left behind by standard theatre programs.
Open Spot Theatre
OpenSpot Theatre offers acting, singing, and dancing classes for people of all abilities.

A downstate theatre company is expanding to northwest lower Michigan.

The program offers acting, singing and dancing to people who may be traditionally left behind by standard theatre programs.

That includes students with developmental disabilities, or seniors who would like additional support, and anyone in between.

OpenSpot Theatre was originally founded as 4th Wall Theatre Company in Detroit by Annie Klark and Katie Mann.

They were inspired after attending a traditional community show.

“We were at a theatre production for neurotypical children and we saw an opportunity to serve a different population,” Mann says.

Open Spot Theatre Co-Founder Katie Mann leads a class of students.
Open Spot Theatre
OpenSpot Theatre Co-Founder Katie Mann leads a class of students.

With a dream and limited resources, the pair decided against renting a space and started bringing the art to the students.

“That has proved so successful because our population sometimes gets overwhelmed,” says Mann. “So if they are in a comfortable location, then we can come in and bring the chaos of singing, acting and dancing.”

Each class is co-taught by experts who develop the individual class curriculum.

“Someone with a background in special education and someone with a background in theatre or the arts and we pair them together to be able to handle, hopefully, anything,” explains Mann.

That's how Shelby Eppich, who will be running the classes in Traverse City, started with OpenSpot. She’s been volunteering with the organization for several years and says each group is a little different.

“We find what works for each group. No individual has the same cookie cutter diagnosis.” says Eppich, “Finding what works with our group is a key to making the program a success and that goes for each class.”

Shelby Eppich has been volunteering with Open Spot Theatre for several years and will be leading a new group in Traverse City.
Open Spot Theatre
Shelby Eppich will be leading a new OpenSpot Theatre class in Traverse City.

That might mean reading body language and slowing down activities or even adapting the goal to the individual.

“Our motto is ‘Theatre for all’ and that has different goals for all,” Mann says. “For some people it's staying on the stage; for other people it's memorizing a monologue.”

Even people who are non-verbal can engage in the program through sign language, gesturing, and other technology.

“Our students are not normally in the spotlight, and that's why we were named OpenSpot,” says Mann. “Because we believe there is a spot open for everyone.”

Visit the OpenSpot Theatre website for more information about their programs.

Kendra Carr joined IPR as the All Things Considered host in 2019. She previously worked at WMOM in Ludington as the News Director. In 2017, WMOM received the Michigan Association of Broadcasters "Station of the Year" award.