An Interview with Samantha Gould of Open Door Theater: “The Lightning Thief”

Presented by Open Door Theater
Book by Joe Tracz Music & Lyrics by Rob Rokicki
Adapted from the book The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Directed by Stephanie Henry and Brian Kelly
Musical Direction by J. Parker Eldridge

June 24, 25, and 26, 2022
Rain dates June 27 and 28
Outdoors at NARA Park Amphitheater
25 Ledge Rock Way
Acton, MA 01720

Friday, June 24 at 7:30pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly
Saturday, June 25 at 2:00pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly
Saturday June 25th at 7:30pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly, audio described
Sunday, June 26 at 2:00pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly, audio described

Interview conducted by Kitty Drexel

ACTON, Mass. — President & Executive Producer Samantha Gould of Open Door Theatre graciously agreed to an email interview ahead of Open Door Theater’s production of The Lightning Thief. This email has been edited lightly for grammar and clarity.

Queen Kitty: For those unfamiliar with Open Door Theater, please introduce yourself and the company to the New England Theatre Geek readership. 

Samantha Gould: Open Door Theater is an all volunteer non-profit community theater with a mission of equity and access and inclusion since 1980. 

Open Door Theater was awarded the Most Accessible Cultural Organization in the Commonwealth from the Massachusetts Cultural Council Up Initiative in 2019, having been an inaugural UP member in 2015. Each year we try to improve our reach by expanding our inclusive design practices and bettering ourselves. 

After having to cancel our March 2020 production of Into the Woods, right before opening, we have offered micro-engagements, classes online, parking lot concerts, and workshops to our community free of charge. We decided to take it outdoors for Lightning Thief performances this year.  

QK: Open Door Theater is celebrating 42 years. That’s a long time! Congratulations! How does it feel to come so far? What’s next for Open Door Theater? 

SG: We just finished an Ask Me Fair inviting intersectional speakers into a library format to interact and answer questions with elementary children. 

We are currently working on a BIPOC Audio Describer Training Project to increase the number of Audio Describers in Massachusetts and increase the cultural competency of Audio Describers. We are also working on publishing a backstage and front-of-house ASL video Glossary for use in our theaters and other theaters. 

QK: Your mission says that Open Door Theater creates accessible theatre on both sides of the curtain. What first steps can an organization take to be more like Open Door?

SG: Not only are our casts integrated and inclusive, (27 members of our 40-member cast self-identify with disabilities). Our crew is representative as well. 

All of our performances are ASL interpreted, Open Caption, and Sensory Friendly. Two are Audio Described. We take care to engage disabled experts in every aspect of our offerings. 

I recommend to other companies to start small and consume diverse art. Pick one thing that you can do better, and do it. We caption for less than half of what I spend on coffee in a year. Access does not have to be costly, but it should be smart and baked in from the inception of the show. 

But, don’t think that you can plug ASL interpreters in on two-days notice. You sell everyone short when you do that. The access should be as awesome as the art itself.   

QK: The Lightning Thief is a series of books, a few movies, and a musical. Why do you think it has such a broad appeal? 

SG: Rick Riordan wrote the series as a love letter to his neurodivergent kid. The fact that the main character is ADHD, dyslexic, and neuro-diverse enhances the story. Representation matters and heroes come in all forms, colors, genders, and abilities.

QK: Why was it a good choice for Open Door Theater? 

SG: We like a show where we can showcase our actors’ abilities and differences, and this show has some great messaging and the music is fun. 

QK: What would you like for audiences to take away from your production of The Lighting Thief?  

SG: In the show, (the character) Sally Jackson, Percy’s mom, says “Normal is a Myth.” She says, everyone is dealing with issues. The things that make a person different are the things that make a person strong. The fact that our cast is proud of their performance AND of their disabilities enhances our productions. We do not sacrifice quality or production values. We handle things a little differently, and that is what makes us special. 

QK: How can people become involved with Open Door Theater?  

SG: We are all volunteer-run, and we self-sustain on ticket sales, grant funding, and donations. We do not charge any participation fees to our actors, so start by seeing our shows

You can follow Open Door Theater on social media (#accessibletheater). Sign up for the newsletter to hear about future shows and get notified of opportunities to audition or help backstage. 

You can also make a donation directly to us to support future programs. Invite your friends and communities to get tickets.

QK: Thank you to Samantha Gould and to Open Door Theater for answering our questions. Break a leg, everyone!

The Lightening Thief performances are June 24, 25, and 26, 2022 in Acton’s NARA Park amphitheater. Performances are outdoors. Attendees should bring bug spray and all of the things that make you comfortable at an outdoor performance such as a blanket and light snacks. 

Friday, June 24 at 7:30pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly
Saturday, June 25 at 2:00pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly
Saturday June 25th at 7:30pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly, audio described
Sunday, June 26 at 2:00pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly, audio described

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