Once a pipe dream of five undergraduate theater and pyschology majors at Northwestern University, Bluelaces began as Theatre Stands with Autism (TSWA). With the support of student group Purple Crayon Players, Bluelaces founders produced, directed, and performed in TSWA's first two, fully mounted productions for children with autism: Diving In! (Spring 2013) and Strung Along (Spring 2014). In tandem with these two productions, they developed a series of creative drama workshops for their audiences, related to each show’s theme. These first two productions and corresponding workshops reached nearly 100 audience members and received universally positive feedback about the experiences from parents and educators.
Bluelaces was formed in New York City in June 2014 by original TSWA founders Melanie Gertzman, Alison Mahoney, Lindsay Amer, Anna Marr, and Claire Huntington. In founding Bluelaces, the group revised their mission to incorporate individuals of all ages, rather than just children. Additionally, Bluelaces began to welcome audience members with all types of developmental differences, with autism and sensory sensitivities as touchstones in creating their productions.
At Northwestern, our founding members received training from Chicago Children's Theatre’s Red Kite Project, a company dedicated to producing theater and conducting drama workshops for children with autism. Bluelaces senior staff members have also studied with London-based company Oily Cart, the company that pioneered theater for children with developmental and physical differences. The core founders for both TSWA and Bluelaces drew inspiration from both Red Kite and Oily Cart, with an added eye to one-on-one attention for each audience member, resulting in the development of our unique “adventure guide” model.