Our History

Seesaw Theatre strives to enrich the lives of individuals living with autism spectrum condition and other developmental differences by increasing their access to theatre and fostering the use of performance as a channel for expression.


Our History

Seesaw Theatre strives to enrich the lives of individuals living with autism spectrum condition and other developmental differences by increasing their access to theatre and fostering the use of performance as a channel for expression.

2016-2017: Our first full season

Our fifth year brought us our first full season. We hosted the first annual Inclusive Theatre Festival in the fall; launched our winter family event with Lunchbox, geared towards connecting neurotypical parents and siblings with their children with developmental differences; and continued our traditional mainstage production with Under the Big Top, produced by Liza Alrutz and directed by Delaney Burlingame. 

2015-2016: EARTH!

In its 2015-2016 season, producer Claire Glubiak and director Emily Baldwin brought EARTH!, a sensory exploration of different aspects of the planet from the bottom of the sea to up into the stars, to life. Seesaw continued working with Chicagoland schools and organizations, workshopping aspects of "EARTH!" as the show took shape. As the season came to a close, Seesaw expanded the board from ten members to thirteen and started to lay the foundation for a full year of programming in 2016-2017.

2014-2015: In The Game

In 2014, "Theatre Stands With Autism" was officially renamed "Seesaw Theatre" to reflect the inclusion of other developmental differences in addition to autism spectrum condition. Additionally, in it's first year as a recognized student group on campus, Seesaw Theatre was now being led by a formal executive board made up of 7 members plus 3 representatives from that year's production. In addition to producing a multi-sensory theatrical experience, Seesaw Theatre's mission expanded to include programming for related organizations in the Chicagoland area.

2013-2014: Strung Along

In 2013, Claire Huntington and Derek Tucker co-produced the second Theatre Stands With Autism production: Strung Along. This multi-sensory theatrical experience, directed by Alison Mahoney, involved walking into a world of string and exploring all of the things that string could be or represent. Attendance increased 500% with the group performing for over 60 young people from local families and school groups. Theatre Stands With Autism also became an officially recognized student group at Northwestern University after being approved by Northwestern's Associated Student Government.

2012-2013: Diving In!

Seesaw Theatre was founded in 2012 by Melanie Gertzman and Anna Marr under the name "Theatre Stands With Autism" as a special event of the Northwestern University theatre board, Purple Crayon Players. That year Darcy Coussens directed Diving In, a multi-sensory theatrical experience where we went underwater and explored the sea and met some friends along the way. That year TSWA reached 12 individuals with autism spectrum condition and their families.


Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED BY families/caregivers:

I think my child would really benefit from attending one of your performances, but they have not been diagnosed with autism spectrum condition. Do you work with audiences with other developmental differences?

Yes. We work with audiences with all kinds of developmental differences, not just autism spectrum condition.


What age range do you work with?

We work with all ages! In the past, we have focused our work on children, but we are really excited about branching out and engaging with audience members of all ages. We know that as individuals age out of the school system, their options for educational entertainment decrease drastically. We’re exciting about beginning to work with this underserved population.


My child is usually too loud/ too active/ too disruptive to attend theater. Will they be welcomed at your shows?

Absolutely! Your child is welcome to engage with the show in any way that is comfortable and natural for them. If they want to get up and run around the space, great. If they want to interact with the performers and participate vocally in the experience, excellent! If they’d prefer to sit back and play with a particular prop for most of the show, that’s also wonderful. Seesaw is about giving our audience members the agency to have the experience they want. At a Seesaw show, there is no such thing as being disruptive.


Do I attend the show with my child?

Yes. Your child will be paired with an adventure guide who will stay with him or her throughout their entire experience. The adventure guide will know your child from information that you send us prior to the show, so they will be able to customize your child’s experience according to their needs (likes, dislikes, and triggers). You will be able to sit and watch the show a few feet away from your child and their adventure guide.


When should I arrive?

We’d like families to arrive at least thirty minutes before the show begins to allow our audience members time to play in our assimilation room. We call our toy-filled waiting area our assimilation room because it allows our audience members time to get used to being in a theater space and interacting with our adventure guides. This time helps remove some of the fear our audience members might associate with being in a new space. We also attempt to alleviate anxiety by sending all of our audience members a social story before they attend one of our shows.


What is a social story?

A social story is a step-by-step description of what will happen from the moment an audience member walks into the assimilation room to the minute they leave our theater space. This description helps ease the schedule anxiety often experienced in theatrical settings that is caused by not knowing what will happen next. A social story can be either in film or print format. Seesaw has been known to create both! 

Frequently asked by Northwestern Students:

What is Seesaw? Is it the same as TSWA?

Seesaw is an educational organization run entirely by undergraduates at Northwestern University dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals living with autism spectrum condition and other developmental differences by increasing their access to theatre and fostering the use of performance as a channel for expression. It is the new TSWA! TSWA (Theatre Stands with Autism) was a special project of Purple Crayon Players. As it grew, it became clear that a name change was necessary to increase our accessibility to audiences with other developmental differences. We are very excited about our new name, as it represents a new stage in the life of Seesaw as an independent organization. The image of a Seesaw is relevant to us because we create one-on-one experiences that meet individuals on their own plane, not accommodations. We see ourselves as individuals, balancing on one side of a seesaw while our audience members balance on the other. We engage with our audiences as equals and never lose our sense of play.


Seesaw sounds amazing. How can I get involved?

There are three basic ways for a Northwestern student to get involved in the creative process of Seesaw. One: become a cast member! Cast members serve as guides of the experiences in Seesaw and participate in the devising process. They are, simply, the actors. Two: become an adventure guide! Adventure guides also participate in the devising process, but their role in the actual show is different. They are paired with audience members to serve as their companions throughout the entire theatrical experience. Adventure guides learn about their particular audience members beforehand—their likes, dislikes, triggers—and use this information to craft an experience that is individually customized to the audience members attending any given show. Both adventure guides and cast members are cast from auditions at the beginning of the school year. Third: join the production team! Designers and business team members form the backbone of the Seesaw experience, creating the world that our audience and ensemble inhabits. With our mentorship structure, it is easy to join the production team as an assistant one year and take on more of a leadership position in years following.


What about the board? What is that? Is it a StuCo board? How is it different from the ensemble and the production team?

The Seesaw board exists to support the production and provide educational programming to individuals with autism spectrum condition and other developmental differences throughout the year. Seesaw is not a StuCo board, nor does it aim to become one, as it is less of a student theater group and more of an educational organization (that happens to accomplish much of its educational goals through the theatrical medium). Seesaw would not be the complete, year-round experience that it is without the support and effort of each and every board member.


Can I be involved in another rehearsal process (or do my 140-3) the quarter of Seesaw and still be in the Seesaw ensemble?

Generally speaking, no. Seesaw is a full, five-week rehearsal process and needs your full commitment as an ensemble member. On a case-by-case basis, ensemble members have been able to rehearse other shows, but only when rehearsal schedules do not conflict or their other show agrees to give Seesaw rehearsals priority.


If I have a significant other commitment during the quarter of Seesaw (such as 140-3), can I still be on the production team?

Absolutely! The production team contains many different positions, all with differing time commitments, so there is sure to be a position that fits your interests and needs. Everyone is welcome—we are not in the business of turning away people that want to work on this project. 



Our 2018-2019 Executive Board


Our 2018-2019 Executive Board


artistic Director








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Design Chair

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Christina Layton
Executive Director


Farrah Sklar
outreach director

Olivia Zapater-Charrette  INTERNAL EDUCATION Director


Michael Ellen



Winter director

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Liza Alrutz
Marketing Director & Production Manager

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