This summer, I have had the privilege of participating in ExxonMobil’s Community Summer Jobs Program. As a participant, I have served as Dallas Children’s Theater’s Community Engagement Intern for the past two months. On Saturday, July 12th, I assisted with pre-show activities for DCT’s second ever sensory-friendly performance. It was such a joy to get to see each family’s excitement as they stepped into the theater, ready to see STUART LITTLE.
For some families, this was their first time at the theater. Without sensory-friendly programming, children with special needs can be overwhelmed by theater productions. The bright lights and loud music that excite typically developing children can be unbearable to their peers with special needs. However, with reduced sound levels, the removal of loud effects, and the house lights on at a higher level than usual, parents finally felt comfortable bringing their children to the theater.
Terry was one of those first-timers. I got to know Terry a little as she and her caretaker hung out at the coloring table before the show. Terry loved coloring and found the pictures of Stuart on his various adventures to be quite entertaining. I soon discovered that Terry and her caretaker had only one rule, a rule to which they confessed to breaking frequently: “There is no having fun.” Anytime Terry would get tickled by a picture or something she saw happening around her, her caretaker would jokingly remind her – no having fun. This would only make Terry giggle more.
I loved getting to interact with Terry, as well as many other children with special needs, and getting to color alongside them while addressing any questions/concerns their parents may have had regarding the show. As the families took their seats and the show began, I not only noticed the sense of excitement that filled the room, but the sense of comfort the parents seemed to feel knowing that this theater was a judge-free zone. They knew there were staff and resources available if their child were to become upset or need a moment of quiet during the show.
We had the honor of welcoming Michael Young and his family to this sensory-friendly performance of STUART LITTLE as well. Michael and his family have supported the well-being of children for many years. Michael and his wife, Cristina Barbosa, explained that they make an effort to expose their kids to as many extracurricular activities as possible so that they can grow into well-rounded individuals. They believe exposure to the arts, in particular, is important for all children, not just their own.
When they learned about about DCT’s efforts to serve Autistic/special needs communities, they were excited to get involved and offer support. Michael shared, “I think DCT’s efforts for the adaptive program are fantastic. As a parent, the last thing you want to see is any child, your own or somebody else’s, be underserved. You want them to have the opportunity to enjoy the arts…I think it’s just really a fantastic initiative and we’re very happy to be a part of it.”
After the show, DCT was excited to report that many families did take this opportunity to enjoy the arts. We had 338 attendants to the STUART LITTLE sensory-friendly performance!
Our third and last sensory-friendly performance for this calendar year will be taking the stage in October. For this upcoming show, reduced pricing will be raised from $5 per ticket to $10. However, $10 per ticket is still a reduced priced compared to our normal ticket prices. The reason for this increase is that DCT would like to continue sensory-friendly programming into next year and beyond. In order to do so, we must continue to raise the necessary funds that are essential for sustaining the program long term. It is hoped that with continued donations and grants, the theater will be able to hold at that price for years to come. The response so far makes it clear that it is a program that meets needs, and we hope that the community continues to join with us in supporting the initiative. DCT has a wonderful vision to ultimately have dedicated classes for children with special needs and sees a major play production that integrates typically developing children with children with special needs. How awesome would that be?!
On September 20th, DCT will be hosting a fairy-tale themed fundraiser, titled the Knights & Princesses Dream Ball. The proceeds from this fundraiser will go towards enabling DCT to produce three more sensory-friendly programs next year. We encourage families and children of all ages to join us for this royal event! For more information on our Knights & Princesses Dream Ball, go to http://tickets.dct.org/single/psDetail.aspx?psn=34110 .
We would like to thank the Young family again for supporting DCT as well as our many other community partners – Autism Speaks, the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at UT Southwestern, University of North Texas Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences and the Health Science Center and the Autism Center, Children’s Medical Center and the Dallas Museum of Art – who have made our sensory-friendly programming possible!
Mark Your Calendars! Our next sensory friendly performance will be…
Rapunzel! Rapunzel! A Very Hair Fairy Tale on October 11th at 4:30pm
Tickets are $10 per person.
Single tickets for Rapunzel go on sale August 1
Call the Box Office at (214) 740-0051
Written by Rachel Grammer, Community Engagement Intern
Hometown – Richardson, TX
Corporate Communications with minor in Spanish
University of Texas, Class of 2015