Saturday, December 28, 2013

In November, the Theatre Development Fund made the holiday season extra bright with a special showing of Spiderman: Turn off the Dark. What made this performance different from any other night’s? For one night, actors and producers altered the show specifically so that autistic kids and adults – who are especially sensitive to lights and sounds - could enjoy it.

The Theatre Development Fund puts on special screenings of Broadway shows four times a year, working with everyone on set to ensure the show is true to the original but with modifications that make the audience more comfortable. Tickets for these evening performances are only available to families with autistic children or adults, not the general public. They have 30 extra helpers in the audience on hand, they hand out multi-colored stress relievers to help relax the audience before and during the show, and have designated rooms right outside the theatre for audience members to go if they need to get up and play with blocks or clay, or just be in a completely quiet room for awhile. Audio levels are reduced by about 20%, and strobe lights are completely eliminated from the show.

For an audience that normally struggles to attend any type of art performance, this accessability to the plays on Broadway is a big deal. Annemarie Scotti, mother to autistic son Nick, says they have wasted countless dollars on tickets to shows that they would have to leave due to his inability to stay quiet or still, with other audience members getting aggravated. Of Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, she said “everyone here is great; all the volunteers have been great with my kids. So I couldn’t ask for a better day.”