“Jason Invisible,” a world premiere co-commission by the Kennedy Center and VSA — the international organization on arts and disability — was adapted by Laurie Brooks from “Crazy,” a novel by Han Nolan. Jason’s father has a mental illness; Jason relies on the aid of imaginary friends and wishes he could go through life unseen until he starts writing an advice column for the school newspaper, helping other troubled teens and accidentally increasing his own visibility in the process.
“There aren’t that many plays on this particular [mental] illness,” Siegel said. “Or they use the illness as a trigger to move the story forward. This is about a boy dealing with a family crisis.”
Rosemary Newcott, the show’s director, frequently directs for middle school students (she previously helmed “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” at the Kennedy Center). “One thing that struck me right away is that this is going to be different,” she said. “I’d never dealt with mental illness before, as a director. [But this show] doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. . . . I don’t want people to be afraid to see it because it’s about mental illness.”
A sensory-friendly performance of “Jason Invisible” will be held April 6, with special considerations made — the theater lights stay on low; patrons are allowed to walk around and talk during the show — to create an environment that’s accessible for families with children on the autism spectrum.
“I’d realized I’d been negligent” Seigel said, when the Kennedy Center implemented the sensory-friendly performances last year. “We’re starting to realize we have not been as inclusive as we thought we were.”
The first sensory-friendly performance was held in April, Siegel said, and “it sold out in 48 hours.”
March 23-April 7, 2700 F Street NW, www.kennedy-center.org, 202-467-4600.
ATMTC takes on Bob Marley’s music
In other “shows for the young ’uns” reports, Adventure Theatre MTC’s producing artistic director, Michael Bobbitt, has adapted “Three Little Birds,” a picture book based on a Bob Marley song and written by Cedella Marley and Gerald Hausman, into a world premiere musical for children.
“The book really uses Bob Marley’s lyrics from the songs, which already sort of have a narrative to it,” Bobbitt said. “It just seemed to lend itself to a modern fairy tale. . . . And then as I combed through Bob’s canon of work, there were a bunch of songs that popped out as strong possibilities for dramatic interpretation, and that put me on to researching everything I could find out about Jamaica.”