Theater Horizon – NBC10 Philadelphia

A professional theater company based in Norristown, Montgomery County, Theater Horizon, has been awarded a $25,000 grant from NBC10, Telemundo62, and Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation as part of Project Innovation. The money will go towards the theatre’s Autism Drama Programme, whose mission is to help inspire imagination and social development for individuals on the autism spectrum.

Founded in 2005 by Erin Reilly and Matthew Decker, Theater Horizon’s mission is to use the transformative power of storytelling to foster empathy and to create an inclusive home for artists, audiences, and students alike. Over the past 17 years, the theater has been recognized with Barrymore awards and notable acclaim in the NY Times. They offer multiple educational programs including NStep, after school drama clubs, summer camps, private and small group lessons, and their Autism Drama Program. They have Spanish speaking drama sites and provide an experience of belonging to everyone, including those who have never been exposed to theatre. Thanks to funding from individual donors and foundations, Theater Horizon is able to offer these programs on a sliding scale tuition so families can pay what they can afford and these programs are accessible to all.

Back Row (LR): Sheridan Merrick, Education Coordinator; Mydera Taliah Robinson, Education Director; Nell Bang-Jensen, Executive Artistic Director; and Kirsten Sughrue, Marketing and Development Coordinator. Front Row (LR): Emily Byrne, Teacher; Suni B. Rose, Teaching Artist; and Heidi Fliegelman, Teaching Artist.

The Autism Drama Program began when the company did 17 years ago and is a core part of the organisation. These classes help students on the Autism spectrum develop social skills, verbal expression, empathy for others, and a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. They celebrate unique and individual genius while creating a safe space for neuro-divergent people to connect, build self confidence, and creatively express themselves. The program started out with just one student and has grown to serve more than 1,000 students.

Click here to learn more about the classes offered through the Autism Drama Programme.

During the pandemic, Theater Horizon moved this program online and were then able to reach students who live out-of-state and even internationally! The organization will use this grant money to be able to continue and expand upon having both virtual and in-person options. This allows them to continue to reach out-of-state and international students, as well as providing the virtual option for the students who feel more comfortable learning that way. They also plan to double the number of teaching artists and curate new classes.

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