BWW Feature: ALICE @ WONDERLAND Sensory-Friendly Performance Starts New Tradition at Raleigh Little Theatre

BWW Feature: ALICE @ WONDERLAND Sensory-Friendly Performance Starts New Tradition at Raleigh Little TheatreWhen I was a kid, my parents took me to the theater a lot. In fact, during one of my very first trips to New York, my dad took me to see Oklahoma, Peter Pan with Sandy Duncan and The Music Man with Dick Van Dyke. These experiences inspired me to study theater in college, want to find an internship in New York, and ultimately become a writer.

As a mom with a child on the autism spectrum, however, it's been hard to share my love of the theater with my daughter. I remember during one of our first trips with her to New York, we took her to see The Lion King. She couldn't make it through the first half of Act One due to sensory overload, and my husband ended up taking her back to the hotel before intermission for fear of her having a meltdown.

As the years passed, we came up with our own parent hacks to get her through a live performance. We tried ear plugs to muffle the sound, which only marginally worked because they were uncomfortable and my daughter would end up pulling them out of her ears.

Eventually we graduated to bringing our own noise cancelling headphones for her to use, which proved to be more effective. In fact, one of the first times we used the noise cancelling headphones was during a Broadway performance of School of Rock, which is now one of my girl's favorite shows.

I know other parents who have carried around autism awareness cards to hand out to bystanders in public to explain their child's behavior, outbursts, or other difficult situations.

Ultimately, however, as a parent of a kid with special needs, I found my husband and I would avoid situations with large crowds rather than exposing our daughter to experiences she might have enjoyed out of fear.

So imagine my delight when I heard that Raleigh Little Theatre was collaborating with Arts Access to do a sensory-friendly performance of Alice @ Wonderland. I had heard about sensory-friendly performances in New York. I also knew that many theaters around the Triangle provide audio described performances, sign language performances, and captioning services. But to think that a community theater here in the Triangle was making theater accessible to special needs kids was just, in the words of the young Alice herself at this afternoon's performance, awesome.

During the sensory-friendly performance Saturday, the house lights were kept on.
Headphones were available to borrow for kids with noise sensitivities, as were fidget balls. Raleigh Little Theatre staff sat at the front of the theater and held up glow sticks whenever there was going to be a sudden light or sound change, and there was a quiet area in the lobby where kids (and their parents) could take a break and decompress if needed.

And none of these accommodations took away from Raleigh Little Theatre's fine Alice @ Wonderland production, which was beautifully directed by Chasta Hamilton and performed by a talented troop of both young and seasoned actors.

At the end of the day, however, this sensory-friendly performance was about the kids in the audience who laughed out loud and clapped enthusiastically and truly got to enjoy live theater, many of them I suspect, considering their ages, for probably the first time.

And lucky for them, this might be the first but isn't the last time Raleigh Little Theatre will give a sensory-friendly performance. Before the show this afternoon, it was announced that they plan to offer a sensory-friendly performance of every show during next season's Family Series, which includes The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Junie B. Jones, and Bob Marley's Three Little Birds.

Kudos to Raleigh Little Theatre and Arts Access for making this available to Triangle families.

For more information visit and Arts Access for a list of inclusive and accessible events, including a list of upcoming audio described performances.

Photo Credit: Elly McClanahan

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From This Author Lauren Van Hemert

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