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On Sunday September 28 at 1pm, Theatre Development Fund's (TDF) Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI) will present the fourth autism-friendly performance of Disney's landmark musical The Lion King (which just celebrated its 7,000th performance on Broadway). Tickets which were sold through ATI on TDF's website sold out in only three days, thus underscoring the popularity of the show with families with children on the autism spectrum, as well as the need for access for this underserved community.
This is the fourth season that TDF, (the not-for-profit performing arts service organization whose mission includes making theatre accessible for all audiences), has presented autism-friendly performances through the Autism Theatre Initiative, which is part of TDF's Accessibility Programs (TAP). ATI's mission is make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum, and their families. They presented the first-ever autism-friendly performance of a Broadway show at Disney's The Lion King on October 2, 2011. Since then, ATI has presented autism-friendly performances of: Disney and Cameron Mackintosh's Mary Poppins, ELF, SPIDER-MAN Turn Off the Dark, and most recently, Wicked. Last spring, ATI served a younger demographic of children on the spectrum with the first-ever autism-friendly performance of Disney Junior Live on Tour: Pirate and Princess Adventure at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. These sold-out performances were successful in opening up the world of live theatre to this community, which until now had found it difficult to impossible to attend live theatre.
"From the feedback we've received of the past seasons, this community is thrilled to finally have access to the performing arts," said Lisa Carling, TDF's Director of Accessibility Programs. "Not only do autism-friendly performances introduce the world of theatre to the person on the autism spectrum, but it allows a family to experience it together in a supportive environment with no judgments. The word is spreading as we are currently consulting with organizations from coast to coast on how to present autism-friendly performances. We thank Disney Theatricals for allowing us to present that first performance in 2011 and continuing to support the program so enthusiastically."
For autism-friendly performances, TDF purchases every seat in the theatre for sale at discount prices to families whose members include individuals on the autism spectrum. In order to be "autism-friendly," the shows are performed in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensory sensitive issues. Slight adjustments to the productions include reduction of any jarring sounds or lights, and eliminating any strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby area there are designated quiet and activity areas, staffed with trained autism professionals, if anyone needs to leave their seats during the performance. To get a clearer idea of what an autism-friendly performance is, here is a link to a feature on the recent Mary Poppins performance from TDF Stages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrb-opIcMWw.
To ensure that TDF will meet the needs of this audience, TDF works with an advisory panel of experts in the field of autism. The panel provides TDF with expertise and counsel throughout the development and implementation of this program.
For more information on Autism Theatre Initiative or to sign up to hear about upcoming autism-friendly performances, go to: www.tdf.org/autism.
Article reprinted with permission from www.BroadwayWorld.com
68 reviews, average rating: (4.8 Stars)
Lion King is my favorite Disney movie, and I didn't think it could get any ... more
The Lion King, How should I put this? It's more, understandable than the mo... more
We love this show!it rocks better than the one at Walt Disney World.this ... more
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