On Aug. 31, Playhouse Square will host its first sensory-friendly Broadway performance of Disney’s “The Lion King.”
To ensure that families can afford to attend, the nonprofit Theatre Development Fund helped buy out the 1:30 p.m. Aug. 31 performance of The Lion King at the KeyBank State Theater, so that tickets for the two-hour performance (including a 20-minute intermission), could be discounted to $19-$49 (down from $49-$199).
How do you make a performance more sensory-friendly? Lowering the sound volume and stage lights, eliminating strobe lights or other potentially startling special effects, and keeping the house lights and stage lights on throughout the show.
“Probably the most important difference is that it’s a judgement-free environment,” says Daniel Hahn, vice president of community engagement and education. “Audience members can talk, stand, wear headphones, bring fidget toys or support items, or move around the theater without having to worry about what others will think.”
It isn’t Playhouse Square’s first show for families of children with autism spectrum disorder or other sensory, social or cognitive challenges, and it won’t be its last, according to Hahn. Since 2014, more than 4,000 people have attended specially adapted, more inclusive versions of its children’s theater performances — and more shows are planned.
“We have to do a good deal of fundraising to make up for the gap, but we believe it’s really important to do this,” he says. “Families can come and enjoy a live-theater performance as a family without being judged for behavior that others might see as disruptive. Everybody’s welcome.”