“Going out to a public event can sometimes be very uncomfortable [for some of these families],” said Diane Nutting, the director of access and inclusion at Imagination Stage. “A child might be responding in a way that hasn’t been seen before by other people and that can create situations with a lot of judgment or stares, or ‘Ma’am, we have to ask you to leave.’ ”
The presentation will differ from the theater’s regular performance by keeping the lights up, lowering the sound and effects in parts of the play, and leaving some seats open to give children room to move around during the show.
The theater is also providing social stories to parents ahead of time, to prepare their children for what to expect, Nutting said. And there will be designated break spaces both inside and outside the theater for families who need to get away for a few minutes.
“Our mission is welcoming everyone, and this is just a part of that,” Nutting said. “Families can come and if a child needs to get up and move or pace or respond vocally or use an iPad to communicate during the show, that’s fine. We welcome that. We’re creating this environment where it’s going to be A-okay, and that’s really important for the entire family, not just the child with disabilities.”
Nutting said the theater consulted with Roger Ideishi, an associate professor of occupational therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, in adapting the performances. Ideishi also helped develop sensory-friendly performances for the Kennedy Center, Nutting said, and is working on making exhibits at the Smithsonian more inclusive for people with autism spectrum disorders.
“Seussical” is the first of four such shows this season, which runs through August. Imagination Stage will also offer sensory-friendly showings of “Anime Momotaro,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Peter Pan and Wendy,” Nutting said.
The sensory-friendly performance of “Seussical” will be at 11 a.m. Tickets start at $15. Because the theater is trying to find the best seating plan for each family, Nutting said, tickets are not available online for this performance. They can be purchased by phone by calling the box office at 301-280-1660. More information on Imagination Stage can be found in our Going Out Guide.