Two years ago, Darlene and I took a group of Theatre Adventure students to a “sensory friendly” performance of the Open Door Theater in Acton Massachusetts. What an amazing experience it was for all of us! Open Door Theater is an inclusive community theater that features actors with and without disabilities. Their work on stage is inspiring. And, their dedication to inclusion goes far beyond the stage---it includes audience members.
For many people with developmental challenges, being quiet in an audience can be difficult. Feeling comfortable in new situations can be challenging. Making sense of the theater lights, amplification of voices, characters that might seem scary, stage fighting, and more can be overwhelming.
And yet, live theater is an opportunity that should be available to all.
We made a commitment two years ago to begin offering “Sensory-Friendly” performances. Last year we offered one for our May production. This year we are offering one for both of our spring productions. The production remains the same. The difference is that special care is taken to prepare audience members for the experience of attending a live theater production.
Before the show begins, the Director talks about the lights, sounds, costumes, and characters of the play in order to support the comfort level of audience members. There is a break room across from the performance hall for audience members who might need quiet space during part of the performance. A social story to help prepare audience members for the theater experience is available upon request anytime before the performance.
Let live theater be the “food of life!”
~Darlene and Laura