England pilots an autism-family-friendly performance program, The Relaxed Performance Project, to be produced at 10 prominent theaters throughout the country. While autism awareness is growing, it is still all too easy for others to confuse a child’s behavior as bad, and many parents of children with autism are discouraged from attending cultural events. Some parents, even, report having been asked to leave productions because of disturbance. England’s collaborative theater project is not only promoting inclusion, but also integration: inviting families to attend performances without restrictions on smartphone/tablet use, entrance/exit during the show, or noise. The production, an adaption of the best-selling book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, relates the autism experience with a central character that demonstrates an unspecified behavioral condition. Among the theaters partaking in this pilot program is The Royal Shakespeare Company, whose actress Kelly Hunter began the Hunter Heartbeat Method utilizing Shakespeare’s rhythm (iambic pentameter) to aid autistics with communication. Ohio State University has adapted The Royal Shakespeare Company’s model and is piloting a ‘Shakespeare and Autism’ study. The theater community is redefining performance, utilizing the potential for interactive stimulation and structured stories to aid autistics and include them in the world of culture and arts. This April, for World Autism Month, William Paterson University in New Jersey held a sensory-friendly production in their children’s theater and requested that ushers loosen up on rules and regulations for behavior. At Northwestern University in Illinois, students have created a “Theater Stands with Autism” program. The first production will take-stage this May. The show, “Diving In,” will be an interactive performance tailored to sensory sensitivity associated with autism. The set is similar in affect to a snoezlen room, allowing the audience to engage in various sensory stimulants. These performances open up shared cultural experiences for the family, but also provide opportunities to meet and share in experiences with other families of children with autism. To read more about these projects or find out how to attend, visit the links below. Share your experience with theater here!
“Autism-friendly Theatre That Welcomes Curious Incidents.” The Independent. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/autismfriendly-theatre-that-welcomes-curious-incidents-in-the-nighttime-8586430.html>.
“Performance Offers Sensory-friendly Theater for Children with Autism.”NorthJersey.com. N.p., 30 Mar. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://www.northjersey.com/community/200690141_Performance_offers_sensory-friendly_theater_for_children_with_autism.html>.
“Theatre Stands with Autism Prepares for Cross-spectrum Adventure.” Daily Northwestern. N.p., 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. <http://dailynorthwestern.com/2013/04/24/thecurrent/theatre-stands-with-autism-prepares-for-cross-spectrum-adventure/>.