What is a sensory-friendly performance?

Sensory-friendly performances aim to provide a safe, judgement-free, and comfortable theater experience for children with autism or other sensory-related disabilities and their families. The show is performed as written, but with special accommodations to account for potential sensory challenges.

What accommodations are involved?

  • Pre-show resources: plot synopsis, character guide, & video social story
  • Volunteer support staff (Speech Pathology Graduate Students)
  • Flexible seating (mats)
  • Quiet room/break area with activities, live stream, & comfortable seating
  • Some house lights on (can be accomplished by having day-time performance)
  • Short run time (~1hr) ← not a necessity, but worked well for Captain Louie, Jr.
  • Free tickets

What shows work best for sensory-friendly performances?

  • Family-friendly: no hard and fast rule for this, but think about if you would feel comfortable inviting families you know with children. Here’s some examples of family-friendly shows.
    • “inappropriate jokes” could be ok as long as they are not overly crude and would go over children’s heads – think of the jokes in Disney movies that we were allowed to watch at a young age, but sometimes new things stick out to us as we are young adults
  • Could be performed in ~1 hour cut (ex. Act I of Into the Woods)

Why should theaters do sensory-friendly performances?

What would it mean for your theater to do a sensory-friendly performance?

  • Added performance (preferably matinee)
  • Minor tech adjustments (ex. reduced volume levels)
  • Cast, Pit, Artistic Staff, & relevant tech/production positions attend Autism Workshop led by Dr. Jane Hilton (Curry School)
  • Potentially a sensory-friendly run-through, depending on extent of changes made from normal run
  • Creativity with seating and break area (bringing in mats/bean bags; having a break area outside? Using dividers to block off a break area inside?)
  • Possible meet & greet after show

How else could my theater make our shows more accessible?

Not every show will lend itself to sensory-friendly performance, but every theater should work to increase accessibility each year.

  • Sign-interpreted performances
  • Open-captioned performances
  • Wheelchair seating
  • Audio description & sensory seminars
  • Braille and large-print programs

I have a show that I think would work well with Accessible Theatre Project. Who should I contact?

Our staff would love to hear from you! Our goal is to offer as many sensory-friendly productions as possible. Please email in order to set up a meeting with our staff about creating a sensory-friendly performance of your production!