Two Theaters Add Special Sensory-Friendly Performances

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christmas carol hartford stage 3By Karen Isaacs

Theaters are beginning to offer special performances for people with conditions that lead to sensory overload or sensory-input disorders such as those on the autism spectrum or with anxiety or other conditions that lead to sensitivity to lights, sounds, movement. These are called  “sensory-friendly” performances.

Last year, Hartford Stage presented a sensory friendly production of its holiday classic, A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas. This year it will continue the tradition with a performance on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

weestport fancy nancyAlso offering a sensory-friendly performance is Rudolph – The Red-Nosed ReindeerThe Musical at the Bushnell in Hartford. This performance will be Sunday, Dec. 13 at 10 a.m.

According to both theaters, the scripts do not change but some of the technical elements are softened to accommodate sensitive eyes and ears.  For example, there is a lower sound level especially for startling or loud sounds, strobe lighting is reduced or eliminated, and lights remain on in the auditorium at a low level during the performance. Often a signal is given to warn the audience that a potentially jarring movement is about to occur.

In addition, normal theater-going “house rules” are adapted.  People may get up, move around or leave during the performance. Even talking while in seats is acceptable.  Space for standing and movement is provided.

Both theaters offer a Quiet Room or areas in the lobby with sensory-friendly toys and staffed by autism specialists.

Hartford Stage has prepared a plot synopsis and social story to help audience members prepare both for the story and the whole theatrical experience.  Selected songs from the production are available on iTunes.

Both theaters will have specially trained volunteers available to help all audience members.

For more information on the Hartford Stage performance, people can contact Erin Frederick in the Education Dept. at 860-520-7244. or Lew Michaels the Access Coordinator at 860-520-7132. Tickets can be purchased at 860-527-5151 or visit

 Tickets for Rudolph at the Bushnell are available at or 860-987-5900; make sure to ask for the Sunday, Dec. 13 10 a.m. performance.

This content courtesy of Shore Publications and

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