Making Theater Accessible on Both Sides of the Curtain


Open Door Theater receives UP Award. Arrow down for more description.

Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Charles Baldwin and Anita Walker hand a giant $10,000 check to Sam Gould and Janice Smith as Open Door Theater receives the 2019 UP Award as the most accessible cultural organization in Massachusetts.

Open Door Accomplishments

2023 Awards

Sam Gould received Acton-Boxborough United Way Mike Tobia Award for Community Leadership.

Congratulations, Sam! Visit the Acton-Boxborough United Way website. (external website)

The Mike Tobia Award for Community Leadership recognizes an outstanding Community Leader, dedicated to serving residents’ needs with compassion and dignity, while fostering a sense of belonging for all. It is named for Mike Tobia who, through the collective efforts of hundreds of volunteers, sponsors and donors of the Mt. Calvary Church Community Supper, served 40,000 meals since its inception in 2012. Mike was an inspired leader, organizer, collaborator, and innovator — and a close friend of Acton-Boxborough United Way. Mike intentionally extended the table to everyone who wanted to be part of the supper and treated every guest with compassion and dignity, while fostering a sense of belonging for all. We honor his dedication to our community by recognizing others who are carrying on his level of service.

Sam Gould receives award for community Leadership. Arrow down for more description.

With a banner above stating Mike Tobia Award for Community Leadership, Lynne Osborn of the Acton-Boxborough United Way presents Sam Gould the award for 2023.

Sam Gould is a long-time friend of Acton-Boxborough United Way. She is the volunteer President and Executive Producer of Open Door Theater, where she has been over 23 years. Open Door Theater, based in Acton, is an all volunteer, non-profit, multi-generational community theater with a social justice mission of access, inclusion and diversity. Sam is an attorney, mother, the driving force behind Open Door’s inclusion programming, and a nationally recognized speaker and expert on arts access. With Open Door, she initiated the Ask Me Fairs, partnering with Danny’s Place and the Sargent Memorial Library, where intersectional speakers are invited and kids can ask them questions in a safe format and learn about differences. As the community member who nominated Sam for this award wrote: “Sam is a dynamic force for universal access to community life/spaces and acceptance of and dignity for all humans. ”

2023 Awards

2023 Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters (EMACT) 5 DASH Nominations for The SpongeBob Musical.
Best Director-Brian Kelley
Best Male Presenting Lead in a Musical-Jared Palazzo
Best Sound Design-Todd Short
Best Costumes-Terri Caroteno
Best Musical

SpongeBob, 2023. Arrow down for a detailed description of photo.

Karen the computer, a white female in a purple sequined dress, Jetson shoulder pads and asymmetrical purple bob, and Plankton, a mixed race male with a long braid in a Nehru olive suit and the iconic cartoon green microorganism hanging from an oversized gold chain, plot to take over the world

2022 Awards

2022 Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters (EMACT) DASH Award Nomination and Winner
Best Youth Actor in a Musical Liz Seilan
WINNER Best Specialty Ensemble in a Musical-Jared Palazzo, Liz Seilan, and Spaghetti Jenson-Fellows

Lightning Thief outdoor performance 2022. Arrow down for more description.

Giant camp halfblood demigods battle a 10 ft tall puppet in front of the scaffolding lit up at the outdoor night show.

2020 Awards

Sam Gould received Lifetime Achievement Award for Accessible Theatre from Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaterss (EMACT)

2019 Awards

2019 Most Accessible Cultural Institution, Massachusetts Cultural Council

ODT received UP Award. Arrow down for more description.

Up Award Charles Baldwin and Anita Walker, ED from the Mass Cultural Council hand a giant $10,000 check to Sam Gould and Janice Smith as ODT receives the UP Award as the most accessible cultural organization in MA 2019.

UP is a direction, not a destination. When we launched this program, we saw the ADA not as the pinnacle, but the platform on which we advance our work. It’s not about tolerating and accommodating. It’s about bringing forward the voices of the unheard. And making change. Persistent, relentless, urgent change. The aspirations behind the Initiative are adaptable from within the context of each organization but are critical to mobilizing change:

  • Vision – of leadership, of mission, and woven into the fabric of procedures and practice
  • Education – of staff, boards, volunteers, and the field and/or discipline
  • Representation – people with disabilities are consultants, teachers, artists, leaders in both site evaluation and program design
  • Innovation – the need to try new accessible methods and think creatively about barrier removal in physical, cultural, and digital environments.

The power of the UP Initiative is realized not just in applying principles of Universal Participation but through its community of practice. It is the people … in amongst the makers, the practitioners, the archivists, the audiences, and the teachers… who are leading this movement. We are grateful to be able to work with and serve these stewards of change. Sam Gould, president of Open Door Theater, says that while they have  long had a commitment to inclusion and accessibility, it was their participation in the UP Initiative that allowed them to “rev UP” their offerings, by “connecting us with other programs so we could share resources, knowledge and experiences, by making grants available to help us expand our own offerings, and by providing networking and training so that we could help spread the culture of inclusivity throughout our communities.”  As inaugural participants in the program’s early sessions, Open Door attendees Sam Gould and Janice Smith found that despite being the only program with neither a building, nor staff, they were the only ones consistently raising their hands to confirm various accommodations already in place.  “We were certainly the least-established/least-funded program, but we were already ahead of the curve with what we had built grass-roots on our own.  To win this award five years later is an incredible honor – not only does it recognize what we’ve done so far, the prize will allow us to continue our growth and outreach even further and higher!” Visit the Mass Cultural Council website(external website)

2018 Awards

EMACT DASH Special Consultants Choice Award for Excellence in Cooperative Performance Deaf Actor Adam Preston and Voice John Young and Best Stage Management, EMACT – Cinderella

2017 Awards

Community Partnership Award for Inclusive Theater, Sam Gould, Federation for Children with Special Needs

2016 Awards

Best Non-Profit Organization, Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce

Semi-Finalist Innovation Awards Small Business Administration NE

2015 Awards

Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters (EMACT) Dash Nominations – Best Stage Management, Best Costumes, Best Make-Up, Best Specialty Ensemble (Dragon), EMACT – Shrek

2014 Awards

Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theaters (EMACT) Dash Special Consultants Choice Award for Accessibility and nomination Best Specialty Ensemble (Milworkers), EMACT – Working