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San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by grumpyoptimist 2012-12-16 13:03:59


So glad this trend is becoming more popular (I don't have anyone with autism in my family but have several friends who do)

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by faithzilla 2012-12-16 13:10:32


This is wonderful. I love that they're doing this. It's especially so sweet for the brother that finally can see his sister perform.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by grumpyoptimist 2012-12-16 13:22:22


I'm not gonna lie, that got to me a bit :)

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by CATSNYrevival 2012-12-16 14:59:13


I'm curious about what kinds of things they had to do to accommodate sensory sensitivities. Did they have to adjust the lighting design as well as the sound? That's interesting.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by perfectlymarvelous 2012-12-16 16:35:55


When TDF did the autism-friendly performances of The Lion King and Mary Poppins, they did adjust some harsher lighting effects. This is the article Playbill posted about the initiative. I think it's fantastic, and I'm glad to see that more theaters are doing it.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by EricMontreal22 2012-12-16 16:42:37


I have a step-brother who is autistic. We've gone to the theatre a few times together, and usually he's fine (the main reaction, if he doesn't like something, is he gets bored and we leave at intermission.) His favorite show is Phantom of the Opera, which we have seen on a few tours now, and I always wonder if in some way he relates to it, but it's hard to get him to talk about things like that.

At any rate--I think this is a great trend. Bryce doesn't have severe autism, but I know he gets worried at the reactions he gets sometimes when we go to a show--and I guess I get that audience members worry he'll act up and ruin some of the experience for them.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by trentsketch 2012-12-16 17:00:59


These productions are a great thing. For sensory issues, it really comes down to pulling the levels down on loud sound effects and keeping lights on in the auditorium. From there, it's whatever accommodations are recommended by the autism experts the theater company consults. Was it The Lion King where they added bean bag chairs and coloring books in staged areas so the guests could take a break from the show if necessary? I know that was a new addition after the first autism-friendly production on Broadway.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by grumpyoptimist 2012-12-16 19:00:39


In previous stagings at the Globe I seem to recall, the Grinch goes up into the audience two or three times in the show and to some degree interacts with the audience, I could see where that could be a "space violation" that you'd avoid here. And maybe pull him back a bit in his "grinchiness." I am going to a "regular" performance on Thursday, if y'all want to know I can see if I can find someone then who can tell me...

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-12-16 19:32:03


I should really shut up before I come off looking like the Grinch myself. So let me instead start by saying I have no objection whatsoever to these special performances. In fact, I've seen all too many productions over the past decade that would have benefitted from dimmer lights and lower sound, and more subtle performances. (I have a gym membership if I want to watch an aerobics class.)

But I can't help noticing that except for Eric's post above, where he talks about his mildly autistic brother liking PHANTOM, nobody in the original link or in the posts here is quoting people with autism themselves. (The original link does quote one kid with autism who says his favorite part of the event was when the Grinch laid still like a plank of wood.)

So I have to ask: is the point of these special performances to benefit people with autism? Or is it--as the link inadvertently implies--primarily a chance for those dealing with autism to enjoy theatergoing with their entire family?

Again, to be clear, it's fine with me either way. But I think it's a fair question based on the way it is being reported.

(Please. If I have used an offensive term, just tell me. I'll be happy to adjust my language without five pages of indignant posts.)

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by EricMontreal22 2012-12-16 20:42:35


Gaveston, I think that's a fair question. I admit, when I was making my post I thought about it both ways.

"So I have to ask: is the point of these special performances to benefit people with autism? Or is it--as the link inadvertently implies--primarily a chance for those dealing with autism to enjoy theatergoing with their entire family?"

Is either thing a bad thing? I am sure there are people who would love to go to the theatre more but are worried about having a disruptive family member there (and honestly, as politically correct as it seems to be to say, I can think of many family members I would be much more weary of taking to the theatre than my step-brother.)?

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by LuminousBeing 2012-12-16 20:46:50


Gaveston--

Thank you for being sensitive. I think you asked a valid question, and I'm going to answer it to the best of my ability.

I think it's a combination of both. I work with families who have children under 3 with autism, and they have often expressed how difficult it is for the whole family that all members can't go to a movie, show, or even a restaraunt together as a family. For higher-functioning and older (theater-going age) kids on the spectrum, these autism-friendly performances allow them to attend the theater and enjoy it to the extent they are able, with the opportunity to take sensory breaks or leave if necessary. For parents and other members of the family, these performances allow them to take their kids to the theater without stares or stigma, and without panicking that their child or sibling will disrupt the performance or cause other patrons to stare or make disparaging remarks without knowing the whole story.

Overall, these performances serve to give individuals on the spectrum as well as their families a positive theater experience in a stress-free environment. And for many kids with autism, a "friendly" performance can lead to an overall love of theater in general.

I hope I've answered your question adequately. Please let me know if I can do any better.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by otis33 2012-12-16 20:52:27


I work on this production. First, let me start by saying, it was a really fantastic morning. I was able to sit out in the audience and watch he reaction. The Grinch has become a tradition for San Diego families. But, by creating this special performance, more families were able to be a part of that tradition.

Regarding changes to the show:
The house lights were brought up and lived at about 30% throughout the show providing a soft glow. The sound levels were only brought down about 10%. No staging was altered at all. The Grinch, the dogs, and even the entire Who company still used the house aisles for entrances and exits. A few special effects - smoke/fog and the snow over the audience - were cut. For major scene changes, a low level blue work light was used so the audience could see the transitions happening. The spotlights would come up a few seconds before someone would make an entrance, allowing the audience to prepare for something/someone new. There were also prepared ushers on either side of the stage who would hold up glowsticks of sorts about 30 seconds prior to applause at the end of a number, or potential loud startling moments - again, just giving a heads up to parents. None of these alterations got in the way of the show or its integrity. The goal was to present as full and complete a show as possible.

On the Globe website, there's a pdf guide book that was created for parents and their families. It features pictures from the show, giving pretty good insight into what they'll be seeing. They also offered two nights of "meet your seat" where the families could visit the theatre, check out their seats, and have a few moments to get used to the surroundings. A safe spot was also set up in the theatre lobby. At any point, families could leave the theatre and take a break. Tho, I'll say, it was used much less than expected.

To answer your question GavestonPS, the performance was intended for BOTH those on the autism spectrum AND their families. I don't think that was meant to be inadvertantly implied. It was pretty well acknowledged it was for the families as a whole. We met with a few parents prior to the performance who commented on never being able to enjoy family outings. Or, really every feel comfortable in public places because their children are viewed as a disruption. This performance offered them a place to not worry about whether their child was making noise, moving too much, or needed to get up and walk around for a bit. It was fascinating to talk to these parents after the show and hear them say they felt like they could relax for the first time in a long time. It was also amazing to watch those audiences members on all levels of the spectrum. They got the show and responded in their own ways. And then to stand outside afterwards and watch how they'd communicate with their families about the experience was pretty wonderful. :)

***edit: LuminousBeing - was writing my response as you were posting. Thanks for you response. Maybe a little clearer than mine. :)

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by LuminousBeing 2012-12-16 22:07:19


Otis -

You're amazing for what you do. I'd love to be a part of something like this, and I'm gratedul to you and the cast/creative team/producers for giving autistic kids and their families a chance to enjoy theater.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by otis33 2012-12-16 22:32:29


It was a great day! I'm lucky have to had the chance to be a part of it. I hope this is the first of many.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by grumpyoptimist 2012-12-17 00:37:22


Thank you Otis. You and the Globe family should be very proud...

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-12-17 06:24:28


Thanks, guys, for all the informative responses. Let me see if I can answer the questions/comments you've asked/made in return:

No, Eric, I don't think it's a bad thing if special performances allow for families to attend as a whole or if they merely benefit people with autism. I'd just like to read one article that does what your post does: talk about the benefits to the spectator with autism and not just about how his/her parents enjoyed a more or less "normal" outing. (No, the journalists don't use the word "normal", but that seems to be the implication when all the quotes come from non-autistic family members grateful for an evening out with ALL their kids.)

otis, congratulations on what sounds like a very successful event! It obviously involved a lot of extra work (not that you complained) and you and all the staff should be very proud. When I said "inadvertently implied", I meant by the journalist because of the way he wrote the article. I wasn't commenting on your theater or your production. And for what it's worth, none of the alterations you mention would keep me from attending a performance.

That's a great answer, LB, and I appreciate it. Thank you for acknowledging my attempt to be informed; trust me, I learned the hard way! But that's okay. What matters is that I learned there is sensitivity to some expressions.

My question only applies to those at the more sensitive end of the autism spectrum. I guess I'm just saying I'd like to see these articles (and they have been linked here before) delve more deeply into the experience of those whose autism is extreme enough to make theatergoing painful and/or upsetting. Are they being taken to the theater for their benefit or because it pleases the rest of the family? (In which case, Eric, maybe pleasing the family isn't reason enough to make one member suffer.)

I think that's a reasonable question and I'd just like to hear an answer from those most affected. But I do understand it may not be a question we can answer yet, since such performances are relatively new.

Bottom Line: yes, I love the theater and often find it valuable, and I'd like everyone to have a chance to experience the joy it brings me. But if some people--for whatever reason--don't care for the art form, I'm not sure we have to force them.

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by trentsketch 2012-12-17 08:48:49


Gaveston, there was a blog post on the NYTimes website that talked to parents at the first Lion King autism-friendly performance. The writer talked to one family that had to leave at intermission because the child was getting overwhelmed.

There's also a video that Playbill still has up showing how some of the children responded to the show. That post is "Inside the Lion King's Austism-Friendly Broadway Performance."

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by artscallion 2012-12-17 09:43:48


The autism spectrum covers a lot of ground and manifestations vary greatly. I have three nephews with autism and my experience tells me that each would react differently to the experience. One would be completely disinterested and probably just play with his toys in his seat, not even looking at the stage, one would be too anxious and distracted by the experience to enjoy it and the third would experience some low level, sporadic anxiety, but would probably talk for weeks about how awesome it was (I know this because we've taken him to a few shows.)

San Diego's Old Globe presents autism-friendly Grinch production
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-12-17 18:33:50


Thank you for the link, Trent. Even if it takes till the end of the article, it's nice the writer actually quoted one of the children for whom the event was intended.

And I appreciate the personal example, artscallion. I hope I didn't give the impression that I think all those within the autism spectrum are the same or even close to the same.