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How to Dance in Ohio’ makes Broadway history

The Broadway production “How to Dance in Ohio” is gearing up for its final curtain call in less than two weeks, but its impact on the theater community will be long-lasting. This groundbreaking show has made history by casting autistic actors to portray its autistic characters, a pioneering move in the world of theater. As the production prepares to close, the cast and creative team reflect on the journey and the hope that their work will pave the way for greater inclusivity in Broadway and beyond.

Breaking New Ground on Broadway

“How to Dance in Ohio” has brought a fresh perspective to the Broadway scene, not just through its storyline but through its casting choices as well. The musical, inspired by a group of seven autistic young adults at a counseling center preparing for a spring formal dance, mirrors the real-life stories featured in an HBO documentary of the same name. This connection to real experiences adds a layer of authenticity and depth to the performance, further enriched by the personal insights and talents of the autistic actors involved.

The show’s casting decision marks a significant step forward in representation and inclusivity in theater. Desmond Luis Edwards, the youngest member of the cast at 19, shared how the experience has been transformative for him, not only as an actor but in his personal journey with autism. His involvement in such a monumental production right out of high school has reshaped his self-perception and understanding of his identity.

The impact of “How to Dance in Ohio” extends beyond the individuals on stage. It has served as a catalyst for discussions about autism and representation in the arts. Actor Liam Pierce, highlighted for his powerful performance, shared how the show has been eye-opening for both the audience and the performers. Young audience members, particularly those on the autism spectrum, have found a sense of belonging and recognition through the characters portrayed on stage, creating moments of connection that are both overwhelming and beautiful.

The ease with which the production found its cast challenges preconceived notions about the capabilities of autistic actors. Rebecca Greer, who penned the show’s book and lyrics, emphasized that the primary goal was to entertain and celebrate the stories within the autistic community, with education being a natural byproduct of this engaging and heartfelt portrayal.

Reflecting on the Journey

Despite the show’s impending closure, the sentiment among the cast and crew is one of gratitude and optimism. The early end to their Broadway run is met with a mix of sadness and resilience, with a shared belief that this is not the end of their journey. The affirmation from the thousands who have seen the show serves as a testament to its success and the potential for future productions that embrace similar values of diversity and inclusion.

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As “How to Dance in Ohio” prepares to lower its curtains for the last time on February 11th, after a nine-week run, the legacy it leaves behind is significant. The show has not only entertained but has sparked a conversation about inclusivity and representation in the arts, proving that the stage can and should be a place where everyone is seen and heard. The hope is that this pioneering production will inspire more shows to follow suit, making Broadway a more inclusive space for actors and audiences alike.

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