Wild Swan Theater is dedicated to producing professional theater of the highest artistic quality for children and families and to making that theater accessible to everyone including low income, minority, and disabled patrons through low ticket prices and innovative outreach programs.
In 1980, Hilary Cohen and Sandy Ryder founded Wild Swan Theater (WST) with a desire to reach youth and families with artistic, affordable, and accessible theater productions of the highest caliber. They set out to create theater that was so thrilling and relevant for youth that it had the power to inspire a lifelong love of drama, art, history, and literature. We are proud to be a pioneer in a nationwide movement of developing quality theater experience for young audiences.
Since its founding, WST made a commitment to make theater accessible to patrons of all abilities. In the early 1980s, we were one of the first
theater companies in the nation to incorporate American Sign Language (ASL) into all of our mainstage performances and invent a new aesthetic for the theater by fully integrating ASL actors into the central action of the play. We also pioneered other audience accessibility tools such as onstage touch tours and audio described performances for audience members who are blind and pre-performance workshops for audiences who are developmentally disabled. WST produced and distributed a teacher training handbook and video set, Dramatically Able: Making Drama Available to Participants with Disabilities.
We have raised the visibility of access and influenced the accessibility practices of many other theaters by example, presentations, and through the sharing of resources.
WST has planned and implemented a variety of theatrical experiences for
children and families since 1980. Our critically acclaimed mainstage and
touring productions have reached hundreds of thousands of patrons of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Books Alive: Reading Through the Arts was an award-winning, arts-in-education project developed in collaboration with the Detroit Public Library and the Detroit Public Schools to engage young readers in the story making process. The program went on to serve hundreds of Ann Arbor middle school students. Each year, WST’s Camp DoYaWanna and after-school programming open up the world of theater to children by providing opportunities to express themselves through theater games, improvisations, and storytelling.
WST has a distinctive style that interweaves many facets of lively theater making: story telling, carefully crafted scripts and scenes, dance, original music composed and performed live for each production, masks, puppets, and the inventive and often multiple uses of simple props. Because we perform for young audiences, we believe this style engages them and allows them to become our co-creators through the use of their imaginations. Each year, we break new ground in bringing to life classic children’s literature, history, mythology, and folklore. Our commitment to artistry, accessibility, collaboration, and community engagement has been acknowledged through awards won
Notable and Newsworthy from the Archives
WST was featured in 89.1 WEMU’s 10:50 segment of creative:impact – Kids Recognize Them Wherever They Go! Meet Our Local Theater Megastars! aired October 29, 2019.
Wild Swan Soars ~Providing Professional, Accessible Theater and More from Crazy Wisdom Community Journal, Issue #54, May-August 2013.