Back in Spring 2020, just before lockdown, Z-arts commissioned Art with Heart to develop STAN. Sam is a happy, dinosaur loving 8-year-old whose world turns upside down after his parents separate. As he takes himself off to the far end of the school field he meets Alex, a deaf girl with a vivid imagination – and an impressive collection of dinosaurs. Bonding over boring packed lunches and their favourite fierce T-Rex, the pair form an unlikely friendship. When things at home become too difficult for Sam, Alex whisks him away on an astonishing adventure to meet the almighty Stan, the gigantic T-Rex at Manchester Museum. A powerful and poignant new play by Sarah Emmott, STAN celebrates the power of play, the joy of communication and the positive force of friendship.  

We are proud to have included STAN in our Big Imaginations programme, touring the show to venues such as Z-arts (Manchester), The Met (Bury) and The Dukes (Lancaster).  

This is a rare and important play,” says Liz O’Neill, CEO and Artistic Director of Z-arts. “Aimed at children aged 7+, it sensitively helps them understand that friendship and family ties can still be strong, even when rocked by domestic challenges, and it does it in a way that’s so genuinely inclusive, it should be at the vanguard of all contemporary theatre practice. We’re proud to have played a small part in making it happen. 

Art with Heart developed STAN with the help of 200 deaf and hearing primary school children from Greater Manchester. As a result, the play was written and performed in English and British Sign Language, embedding creative captions within the set. The play positively demonstrates how we can overcome language barriers, and challenges preconceptions of deafness, presenting a strong deaf character in a lead role. 

They also developed workshops alongside the show to help unpack the themes of STAN with audience members. The workshop was presented in spoken English and BSL, designed with both deaf and hearing children in mind. As well as this, they produced an education pack including a video of BSL signs to help hearing and deaf children communicate, along with three Deaf Awareness training events and a dinosaur object handling box with some fascinating objects from Manchester Museum’s collections. 

Seeing STAN finally come to life has been incredible and an absolute adventure creating something on this scale,” says Sarah Emmott. “The support of Big Imaginations has been critical and audiences have told us that we have created something genuinely useful for them; a starting point to have crucial conversations with their children about parental separation, identity and feeling safe to share our thoughts and feelings. At the end of a performance one child ran up to me before the workshop started and said “I need to tell you that your story is really brilliant” – that sense of excited urgency to share with others how a theatre production has made us think and feel is why I absolutely love creating and sharing theatre with audiences. 

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