Theatre Company Creates Sensory-Friendly Christmas Carol Play to Include All Audiences

Theatre Company Creates Sensory-Friendly Christmas Carol Play to Include All Audiences

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Going to see Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol can be a classic holiday tradition for American families – but for the people who get overwhelmed easily by sights and sounds, the play can be pretty intense.

That’s why the Berkshire Theatre Group at the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is creating a sensory-friendly version to include audiences of all backgrounds and conditions.

Many educational initiatives in the county are reportedly very inclusive of kids with autism who may struggle with overstimulation. Autistic children often experience an increased sensitivity to light, sound, visuals, or music.

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With the sensory-friendly production, however, there will be several revisions that will create a safer environment for sensitive individuals.

For starters, the troupe is creating special cues that will warn viewers of an upcoming emotional scene, like the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Future. Audience members will have access to a theater exit at all times should a scene be too overwhelming to handle. There is also a designated safe space next to the restrooms for anyone who would like to take a break from the play.

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Instead of dimming the lights to pitch darkness, the crew will only lower them to half-brightness. The troupe will eliminate the use of stage fog and flashing lights as well as rambunctious motions like the party scene’s typical laughing and clapping display.

“For audience members familiar with the production, they’ll still see the same story, just a modified version,” Allison Rachele Bayles, administrative director of education for the theater group, told the Berkshire Eagle. “It’s important for people, to be able as a whole family, to see a production and also be themselves. So if the mood strikes and someone wants to sing along with a carol, that’s great. We want to support their experience.”

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(Photo by John G. Meadows, CC)

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