Ben Raanan, is a theatre director, educator, and disability advocate currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Directing at DePaul University's Theatre School. As a child, Ben was diagnosed with Erbs Palsy, which left his left arm completely paralyzed, yet through years of physical therapy, and determination, Ben now has 45% mobility.
Ben's mission is to create art WITH, FOR, and ABOUT those who are differently abled. He has worked with differently abled individuals to devise and create more than eight productions and has been nationally acknowledged for his education and advocacy work for individuals with disabilities. From 2013-2017, Ben was the Director of Education & Outreach at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati (ETC) and began the Hunter Heartbeat Program, which utilizes Shakespeare to teach individuals with disabilities social, communication, and behavioral skills. ETC became the largest purveyor of Hunter Heartbeat in the world and serves over 300 students a week. Ben continues to teach the Hunter Heartbeat method in Chicago.
Ben recognizes the need to achieve higher inclusivity for those with disabilities in the theatre and plans to continue presenting honest, artistically rigorous stories about disability onstage, furthering theatrical education, and developing a diverse theatrical audience through sensory friendly performances.
Disability will always be the driving force in my life. As a child, I was diagnosed with Erbs Palsy, a bone condition that paralyzed my left arm. Yet my own disability was overshadowed by my younger brother's severe and profound Autism. As an advocate for my brother and as a disabled man myself, I believe that through art, we can change the way society views disability. My mission as a director is to create art WITH, FOR, and ABOUT those who are differently abled. Through the years, I have worked with five different professional theatres to diversify their audience through collaborations in creating "Sensory Friendly" performances. When I was Education Director at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, I started a program called the Hunter Heartbeat, an internationally recognized method of using Shakespeare to teach individuals with disabilities, and taught 150 people a week. People with disabilities don't just deserve theatre, they need it. Moving forward, I look to continue growing the three components needed to achieve a higher inclusivity: presenting honest and artistically rigorous disabled stories onstage, developing a diverse theatrical audience through sensory friendly performances, and finally furthering theatrical education for those who can finally find their voice through the theatre.