In 2006, The Red Kite Project paved the way as the only program of its kind in Chicago, creating theatrical adventures and dynamic learning experiences for youth with autism. Red Kite is a branch of Chicago Children’s Theatre and the opus of CCT’s artistic director, Jacqueline Russell, as part of our ongoing commitment to serving children with special needs.
The Project includes an ever-expanding umbrella of internationally-known productions, tours, camps, residencies and theatrical experiences that dispel myths surrounding youth with autism and their ability to fully participate in the arts. The Red Kite Project was named a 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award finalist, “distinguishing it as one of the top arts- and humanities- based programs in the country,” (NAHYP Award Letter, May 2017).
The Red Kite Project’s mission is to create accessible theatre programming for young people with autism and other exceptionalities. We strive to create an inclusive learning environment that is accessible and welcoming to a diverse group of learners. At Red Kite, all are welcome to fly with us!
Red Kite Productions
While at a traditional live theatre experience, children are expected to sit still and keep quiet. Red Kite Productions encourage audience members to move, laugh, talk, sing and interact (if they choose to) with our specially trained teaching artists. Designers create safe, inviting, and awe-inspiring spaces where children can experience interactive, multi-sensory activities. Specially trained performers respond to each child and their specific sensitivities, meeting them on their terms. We provide a detailed Social Story in advance in order to better prepare Red Kite audiences to take an adventure with us. CCT has created 7 original Red Kite productions to date: Red Kite Blue Moon, Red Kite Round Up!, Red Kite By the Sea, Red Kite Brown Box, Red Kite Blue Sky, Red Kite Treasure Adventure, and Red Kite Green Mountain.
Red Kite Classes & Camps
Our unique Red Kite Classes & Camps create dynamic learning experiences for children on the autism spectrum. We aim to foster shared arts experiences that encourage self-expression, social engagement, creative exploration, and above all, FUN!
Red Kite Residencies
The Red Kite Residency Program serves classrooms with children on the autism spectrum. Our curriculum includes a number of theatre games, tactile experiences, and music integration in both turn-based and group activities. The main goals of this program include imaginative play, improved communication, facial emotion recognition, turn-taking and eye contact. This program is inclusive for children without language and limited mobility. Each year, Red Kite Drama Time Residencies serve over 300 students and CPS educators in over 20 special education classrooms.
Hands-on, creative workshops are designed for artists and educators who work with students on the spectrum. Educators learn how to use theatre as an inclusive tool to strengthen the ways their classrooms develop and communicate, emphasizing creative and expressive needs of students.
Red Kite Project Testimonials
“There are really not words to describe our experience at Red Kite! I was brought to tears watching my son experience acting, singing, make believe and humor. Usually, the world is too loud, too bright and just plain hard to maneuver. So, to have this experience where I could just sit back and watch him smile, participate and enjoy drama and pretend play was magic. Thank you all so much! We love Red Kite!” – Andrea K
“This clearly was a beautiful experience, one that more children, autistic or not, should have.” – H. Schubert, Professor and University Scholar, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Curriculum and instruction, University of illinois at Chicago (UIC)
“I wish [we] could do this more often” – Luisa M.
“My son said this was the best experience of his life. He never shows that kind of emotion” – Debra K.
“I had to fight tears because I was so proud” – Mary B
“We are on the battlefront 24/7, it’s nice to be able to take them places where we don’t have to apologize for who they are.” – Sharon C.
“Many of my students have never seen a live production before so they were very excited to attend the show. On the bus, they discussed their favorite parts. When we returned to school, they compared the book to the live show and talked about how they liked seeing the characters come to life” – Teacher, Arts Immersion Program Red Kite
“I was so impressed. Every kid [was] able to be themselves. The staff was wonderful with getting the kids involved. Even if a child wanted to sit by their parent or guardian…they were approached and included! Loved it!” – Marshelle L.
“This was the first time in ten years we’ve been able to take our child to a social event.” – Jill S.
“From the moment I called the first time until we left [the adventure], I was treated with warmth. It was simply wonderful!!” – Seona P.
“We cannot express enough how wonderful the day was for our family.” -Alan F.
“He acted out the entire story of The Tempest for his teachers and was so passionate about it.” – Logan’s Dad
“I was born ready for Shakespeare” – Timmy
“My daughter had a wonderful time! On the train ride home, she asked if we could come back the next day!!” – Nancy O.
“We didn’t feel like we stood out.” – Rachael B.
“It means so much that we had a fun experience to take our son to on a dreary winter day in a place where there was complete acceptance and warmth.” – Kelly S.