The staff of the Croswell Opera House in Adrian, Michigan, thinks every kid should get the chance to enjoy live theater. So on March 1, it gave a special presentation of The Cat in the Hat.
The show was designed with a special audience in mind—kids with sensory processing issues.
Kids with these issues can have a hard time handling the dramatic noise and lighting in a typical play. So the Croswell team set out to design one that would be easier to watch, according to Erik Gable, director of marketing and audience developement.
“We love theater, and we think going to a show is an experience that every child should get to have,” says Gable. “Why should anyone have to miss out on that magic just because they process sights and sounds a little differently?”
The idea started with Artistic Director Jere Righter. She’d heard about productions around the country for kids with or autism spectrum disorder. She wanted to try that at the Croswell.
To create a show that wouldn’t be overwhelming, the theater worked with the local school district. The educators helped the team figure out what changes might make the experience less stressful—and more fun—for the kids.
The Croswell team also looked at other theaters that had created similar shows. The changes it came up with included:
- A booklet about what to expect at the theater—kids and parents could read it before the show
- A “Meet Your Seat” time for families to scope out the space in advance
- Low-level lighting in the audience during the show
- Buffer seats between groups to ensure enough personal space
- Fewer startling noises and drastic lighting changes
- Visual warnings before noises or changes in lighting
- A “Chill Out” area for kids who need a break
- A “No Judging” environment that let kids move around during the show
What were the reviews? “One of the most frequent comments was that it was very meaningful for families to have something they could do together,” says Gable. “Even if their child experienced problems, they wouldn’t have to worry.”
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Melissa A. Kay is a writer, editor, and content strategist in the areas of family, health, employment, beauty, lifestyle, and more.