Unified Theater dissolves typical barriers between youth through transformative, school based performing arts programming. At Unified Theater, young people with and without disabilities, of all backgrounds, come together as equals to put on a production. The production is entirely organized, written, and directed by the students themselves. In nearly 100 schools across seven states, over 12,000 students with and without disabilities have performed for nearly 20,000 audience members. The concept is simple: let teens lead, let creativity rule, and put the Spotlight on Ability.
Watch Micaela, our founder, share our story as a Social Innovation Fellow at Chicago Ideas week...
How We Began
Unified Theater began with Kelsey and Micaela. As cousins born three months apart, Kelsey and Micaela were united by their love for music, roller coasters, long drives, and beach side picnics rather than divided by the fact that Kelsey was born with disabilities that limited her ability to walk and talk. Kelsey taught Micaela, and the entire world, to see ability first, to savor each moment of joy and the people that bring them, and to never ever take life too seriously. As a child, Micaela had another love too, theater and music. But she was always frustrated to see no kids with disabilities, like Kelsey, in her music and theater programs. So, influenced by Kelsey, Micaela started the first Unified Theater group at the age of 15 at Conard High School, launching a creative youth led movement towards full inclusion.
Our founding story is still very much a part of who we are today at Unified Theater. We still focus on real inclusion and seeing ability first. We're still driven by youth for youth. Just like Micaela started and led the first Unified Theater group in her school, youth across the country are building and leading programs in their own schools. And, we still let creativity rule, understanding that theater, music, and art have a unique ability to dissolve typical barriers, unite diverse communities, and tell stories that transform the lives of performers and audiences alike.