California Theater Gives Sensory-Friendly Performances

by January 25, 2017 • Home FeaturedComments (0) 62

From Big Bad Wolf, L-R: Kate Cheel, Emma J. Hawkins, Patrick Graham Photo credit Tony Lewis

Segerstrom Center for the Arts added special sensory-friendly performances to its eight-show Family Series. These sensory-friendly performances are designed specifically to help children on the autism spectrum or others with sensory sensitivity to fully enjoy the magic and amazement of live performances. Other engagements will be sign-language interpreted for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

Center President Terrence W. Dwyer said, “Our family series is a very important part of the Center’s commitment to providing the finest performing arts experiences to audiences of all ages. I am especially pleased that we are now able to offer sensory-friendly performances. These enable children and adults with autism or sensory sensitivity to enjoy these wonderful productions that we bring to the Center from around the world.”

Sensory Friendly Means Arts Access for All

To give everyone in our community the opportunity to experience the joy of attending a live performance, we are presenting a series of sensory-friendly performances as part of our Family Series. These shows are designed specifically for patrons on the autism spectrum, and others with sensory sensitivity, to enjoy with their families.

What “sensory-friendly” means—

  • •Reduction of sound levels, particularly loud or startling sounds.
  • •Reduction of overwhelming stage lighting.
  • •Low ambient lighting in the theater throughout the performance so patrons are able to see should they need to move around or exit the theater.
  • •Preparatory materials called Previsit Guides will be provided to patrons so they will know what to expect from the performance. Previsit Guides include pictures with simple captions of the theater-going experience.
  • •The use of iPads or smart phones are allowed during the performance if they are being used as a communication device.
  • •Designated break spaces will be available for those who might feel overwhelmed and need a break from the performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are sensory-friendly shows?

Sensory-friendly (SF) shows are Family Series shows geared toward patrons with autism and other developmental disorders, and aimed at those with the developmental age of 4–8.

If sitting through an entire show is difficult, is there somewhere to go to take a break and then return to the theater?

We will have areas in the lobby where one can take a break from the show if needed. The lobby has a television to still watch the show. Guests are welcome to go outside if they prefer-one can enter/exit the theater at any time.

Is talking or moving around during the performance allowed?

All are welcome to talk and move around as much as needed during the performance. No one will be asked to step into the lobby; silence and stillness are not prerequisites for SF shows. We want our guests to be as comfortable as possible during the performance.

How can one familiarize themselves with the story and the experience in advance?

We will have Pre-Visit Stories available to download on our website closer to the show. These preparation materials will have pictures so guests know what to expect when they come to the theater. Our lobby/theater will also be open an hour before the show so guests can come early to acclimate themselves to the space.

Will there be extra wheelchair seating?

We have plenty of wheelchair/mobility device locations located in the loft to accommodate for patrons using wheelchairs/mobility devices. Please let us know if anyone in your party is using a wheelchair/mobility device so we can make arrangements.

Are your ushers/box office staff trained in assisting individuals with sensory needs?

All of our ushers and box office staff are trained in assisting individuals with sensory sensitivities. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. You will recognize our staff as those who are wearing an orange tie and a charcoal gray vest.

Do you offer any other access services for patrons with disabilities?

We are committed to making our venues accessible to all. We offer wheelchair locations and wheelchair transfer locations in every hall. We offer many access services for patrons with disabilities like assistive listening devices, large print programs, binoculars, Open Captioning, ASL interpretation and audio description. For more information about the sensory-friendly features available at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, please call (714) 556-2787 or e-mail

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