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Topic: Performing for people with disabilites - your turn
Message: Posted by: DougTait (Sep 19, 2002 05:08PM)
I challenge you to put your imaginative minds to work and come up with some creative ideas on presenting Gospel magic to an audience filled with people who have one or more disabilites. Here is the scenario.

120 people. Ages 2 to 70. 50% of the audience, representing all ages, have Down's Syndrome or some form of mental retardation, some are blind, some deaf, some have diseases that cause them to yell or make very loudly noises at random times, occasionally curse words (Tourettes Syndrome). Others have "normal" mental capacity, but can't verbally communicate easily (Cerebral Palsy), others can communicate but are not mobile (Para and Quadraplegic). There are a few who are catatonic - no *apparent* response to stimulation that you can notice.

I have performed for groups like this for four years and it often is a zoo - and I love it! They all generally have one thing in common. They are the most loving and happy bunch of fearfully and wonderfully made children of God that I have ever had the pleasure to associate with. But talk about a challenge for a performer!

They are amazing! I have learned that misdirection does not work with people who have some degree of mental retardation. They never follow the movement or your eyes no matter how dramatic or emphasized. I perform for them in seperate mental age groups, sometimes all together. I often have a sign language translator work with me, which presents it's own seperate problems.

I mix secular and Gospel together, and try to use as many volunteers as possible, but that is always a ticking time bomb.

They are a very enthusiatic audience, who are thrilled just to be together and have someone perform for them. What is important is we have fun and God is glorifed and hopefully a lesson is learned.

OK. Now it's your turn. If you were to fill in for me, what effects would you plan on using. Any particular Bible message?

I know there is a wealth of creativity out there just waiting to be unleashed. Thanks for your input.

To His Glory,
Message: Posted by: x-treem (Sep 20, 2002 05:57AM)
Good day Brother Doug. Though I have not performed for an entire room filled with all of your mentioned disabilities I have a special place in my heart for people with Down's Syndrome.

I did a report/speech in college on the fact that 85% of Down's have an "invisible friend" that they talk to. I believe are Guardian Angels. Several Christian advocats still use the speech.

I have also implimented Bible Studies for Down's people as I was told they do not have the capacity to understand the Bible. A statement which is totally wrong!

(Sorry if any of the above sounds boastful, the above facts are an irritation I still have with society)

Onto the topic of performing, you are correct that, much like a young child, they have not been conditioned for misdirection, that is where using such tricks that are short, colorful and complete audience participation (everyone yelling or pointing) come in, they also love when one of their group leaders is on stage acting or looking silly (with the leaders permission of course).

An excellent effect is the color change CD's, sold by Duane Laflin.

The set I have has 4 colors, I cut out one color (four seems to go to long) and talk about how each of us are cut from the same cloth (uncolored CD's) but yet each has a uniqueness (talent) that the Lord has given each of us, giving a different talent and brief explination with each color CD.

I first did the above trick in 1997. A lady with sever DS who is supposedly unable to associate with a person after only meeting them once, still yells the colors and points to where I stood and performed that first time when I visit her group home to see how the Bible studies are coming along.

Others include Strat-o-Sphere, Crystal Silk Cylinder, A sliding card box (much like the dye box) where the vanished card is on my back at the end.

K.I.S.S. Keep It Short, Simple and they will remember.
Message: Posted by: DougTait (Sep 20, 2002 10:24AM)
X-treem; Thanks for the input. You are not boasting. What you say about people with Down's is 100% correct from my experience. As you know, there are many degrees of disability among DS but each one is an individual with a distinct personality. I have witnessed the "invisible friend" trait, but have never heard of the Guardian Angel theory. It sounds interesting and if you still have a copy of the speech I would certainly like to read it.

They most certainly do have the ability to grasp biblical concepts, often with an amazing insight that we "normal" people fail to see.

Thanks again for your suggestions. I particularly like the idea of using a willing group leader to play off on. Sort of like the Magician in Trouble business.

Blessings to you on your ministry.

Message: Posted by: x-treem (Sep 22, 2002 12:24AM)
If you PM me your email address I'll send the information from the speech. Most people just use the stories and facts that I give and work their own observations around those.


Message: Posted by: sdgiu (Oct 30, 2002 12:53AM)
Bro Doug, I was thrown into this situation a couple of years ago, and didn't have a clue... at the start. My oldest daughter asked me if I would put on a Clown/magic show for a group of special needs students at her High School. I agreed of course as long as she would assist me, and set off to try to decide what to do. Well, I have been doing little gospel magic tricks for my childrens church kids for a few years now, and figured it would probably be similar. It was and wasn't.

I had just done a comedy magic act for our church's annual fun night, and thought they might enjoy this. You know the silly stuff that usually makes people groan, like I had a large bouquet of flowers up one sleeve(large bulge) which I produced from nowhere etc. What it all boiled down to is they laughed in places I wasn't expecting, and clapped where I expected them to laugh. In other words I would've really botched it in a regular situation, but these special people were very nice, and polite and (tried to not hurt my feelings) when some trick I expected to get a groan, didn't seem to go right, when they clapped I was amazed at their spirit of empathy.

This was in a public high school, so I was asked to keep it secular, but I believe if I were to be in this situation in a free'r environment, I would do uncomplicated tricks and use a simple message that anyone could understand. If Jesus spoke to us very simply, I think that this would probably work best.

Thanks for letting me share.

P.S. Those kids taught me a lot in a short time, I loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat.