What is a sensory-inclusive performance?

When Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus! (The Musical) plays at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center on February 25, it includes a sensory-inclusive performance designed to welcome all audiences to a supportive, judgement-free environment that includes physical and cultural modifications to create an exceptional live experience.

Over the last several years, the Center has worked to include at least one performance each season that is specifically designed to welcome all patrons comfortably. Sensory-inclusive performances are designed to create a performing arts experience that is welcoming to all families, including those with children with autism or other sensory sensitivities. Because a  performance may be too loud, too bright or too busy for some in our community, these performances can include light modifications, sound adjustments, reduced audience capacities and specially trained volunteers that help everyone feel comfortable attending the theater together.

“Sensory sensitivities are found in a variety of populations including those with autism, sensory processing disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, Alzheimer’s and more diagnoses that affect a variety of ages and demographics,” said chief programming officer Amy Gosz. “As a gathering place for all in our community, it’s our goal to make sure those with sensory sensitivities can feel welcome and experience the incredible ways the arts inspire, educate and engage us.”

Sensory-inclusive performances begin with a social story available on the Center’s website, a tool to set expectations for a patron’s visit with a step-by-step preview of their visit that includes photos. Upon arrival, trained volunteers are available to answer questions or guide visitors to their seats. At show time, lights in the theater are kept slightly up to allow all to view their surroundings and to allow for a safe exit if patrons become overwhelmed or need a break. Sudden light changes during the show on stage are also reduced, along with any loud noises. These seemingly small adjustments make a world of difference in allowing everyone to experience the show together regardless of one’s abilities.

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center’s mission is to be a multicultural gathering place for all in the community to engage in educational opportunities and enhance understanding and enjoyment of life through the arts, and sensory-inclusive opportunities are just one way in which it delivers on that mission.
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