Saturday, January 23, 2021

Life & Style

Two Theaters Add Special Sensory-Friendly Performances

Theaters are beginning to offer special performances for people with conditions that lead to sensory overload or sensory-input disorders such as those on the autism spectrum or with anxiety or other conditions that lead to sensitivity to lights, sounds, and/or movement. These are called “sensory-friendly” performances.

Last year, Hartford Stage presented a sensory friendly production of its holiday classic, A Christmas Carol-A Ghost Story of Christmas. This year it will continue the tradition with a performance on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Also offering a sensory-friendly performance is Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer–The Musical at the Bushnell in Hartford. This performance will be Sunday, Dec. 13 at 10 a.m.

According to both theaters, the scripts don’t change, but some of the technical elements are softened to accommodate sensitive eyes and ears. For example, there is a lower sound level, especially for startling or loud sounds; strobe lighting is reduced or eliminated; and lights remain on in the auditorium at a low level during the performance. Often a signal is given to warn the audience that a potentially jarring movement is about to occur.

In addition, normal theater-going “house rules” are adapted. People may get up, move around, or leave during the performance—even talking while in seats is acceptable. Space for standing and movement is provided.

Both theaters offer a Quiet Room or areas in the lobby with sensory-friendly toys and staffed by autism specialists.

Hartford Stage has prepared a plot synopsis and social story to help audience members prepare both for the story and the whole theatrical experience. Selected songs from the production are available on iTunes.

Both theaters will have specially trained volunteers available to help all audience members.

For more information on the Hartford Stage performance, contact Erin Frederick in the Education Department at 860-520-7244 or Access Coordinator Lew Michaels at 860-520-7132. Tickets can be purchased by calling 860-527-5151 or visiting hartfordstage.org/sensory-friendly.

Tickets for Rudolph at the Bushnell are available at bushnell.org or 860-987-5900; make sure to ask for the Sunday, Dec. 13 10 a.m. performance.


Karen Isaacs is the Columnists for Zip06. Email Karen at .

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