The “largest spectacle of music” returns to the Scope Arena this year as the Virginia Arts Festival presents a cast of hundreds from around the world in the Virginia International Tattoo from Thursday, April 26 through Sunday, April 29. https://www.vafest.org/tattoo/
This is military might through music. There will be military bands from Belgium, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Republic of South Korea, the United States and so much more. People come each year from around the world and around our country to see the Virginia International Tattoo. The largest Tattoo in North America is right here in our own backyard.
I am not the most patriotic person you will meet, but I go to the Tattoo each year. https://altdaily.com/overwhelmed-by-patriotism-virginia-international-tattoo/ It restores my faith in the United States and democracy around the world. It’s also a great show. As Scott Jackson, Producer/Director of the Tattoo says, “You’ve always wanted to see this Tattoo, you just didn’t know it.”
The Tattoo is run by hundreds of volunteers https://altdaily.com/the-volunteers-behind-the-virginia-international-tattoo/ and just a few paid staff from the Virginia Arts Festival. https://www.vafest.org
The Tattoo performs the show for thousands of area school children each year, the day before opening night. What many people don’t know is that there is also a final dress rehearsal, attended by people of all ages with special needs.
This final dress rehearsal is also known as Special Audience Night. It is the brainchild of the producer and director of the Tattoo, Scott and his wife, Karen Jackson. The Jacksons have three children, including 20-year-old daughter, Samantha, who has ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorder. Samantha is the “inspiration behind Special Audience Night.”
Karen teaches music at the Williams School in Ghent and is founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Faith Inclusion Network (FIN). http://www.faithinclusionnetwork.org FIN works to “help faith communities learn more about being accommodating and inclusive of persons affected by disabilities and their families.”
She says, “Individuals who have special needs, in particular those with developmental and intellectual disabilities may have sensory and behavioral issues that make going to a public performance, especially one as crowded and overwhelming as the Tattoo, difficult.”
Special Audience Night gives those people and their families, a chance to attend this spectacular show and not worry about having to leave, or having to get up and move around during the performance. It’s fine if the audience makes “unusual noises.” My nephew has Angelman Syndrome. https://www.angelman.org
He cannot speak, but he loves going to shows of all kinds and shrieks when he is delighted. Shrieking with delight doesn’t bother anyone at Special Audience Night.
Karen says, “No one judges the behavior, the children and their parents are free to relax and enjoy.” Samantha loves music. When she was very young, she could not tolerate sitting for the whole Tattoo performance, so Karen would bring her to the dress rehearsal and leave when Samantha needed to leave. Each year, Samantha would stay a little longer. Now, she stays for the whole performance and loves the bagpipes most of all.
Christine Foust, Director of Education and Community Engagement for the VAF, says that the audience for Special Audience Night is kept deliberately small. She works with special needs organizations, like Faith Inclusion Network, Hope House https://www.hope-house.org
, Special Olympics, http://specialolympicsva.org/who-we-are/find-special-olympics-near-you/southeast-region/area-2
Eggleston Community Services https://www.egglestonservices.org
and the disability services of area schools to invite adults and children with special needs to the performance.
There are extra volunteers on hand for the Special Audience Night to assist with mobility issues and help everyone navigate Scope Arena. Access Virginia https://www.accessvirginia.info
provides Audio Description, a service that describes what is taking place on the stage for people who are blind. There is also a written description for people who have hearing difficulties.
Special Audience Night is a special kind of dress rehearsal for the Virginia International Tattoo each year. If your organization would like more information about Special Audience Night, contact Christine Foust at email@example.com
If you would like more information about the Virginia International Tattoo and how to get your tickets for this year’s performance, go to https://www.vafest.org/tattoo/