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 & Autism Speaks Undergraduate 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?
- Professionalism (see Broadway, Boston Conservatory, Papermill Playhouse)
- Community outreach: as demonstrated by attendance at Captain Louie, Jr., there is a real need for this service in our community
- Open up quality shows to families who might not get to experience them otherwise
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 firstname.lastname@example.org in order to set up a meeting with our staff about creating a sensory-friendly performance of your production!