A theatre company is creating a sensory-friendly version of Charles Dickens,’ “A Christmas Carol,” to be more inclusive to audience members who have autism or struggle with overstimulation.
The Berkshire Theatre Group at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, Massachusetts is transforming the holiday classic to accommodate audience members such as autistic children and those who are sensitive to visuals, lights, sounds, and music.
Several modifications will be made to create a sensory-friendly environment. Rather than dimming the lights to pitch-darkness, the crew will lower the lights to half-brightness. In addition, the group will go without the use of stage fog and flashing lights as well as rambunctious motions.
The performing troupe is also creating special cues to notify audience members of upcoming emotional scenes. Audience members can exit the theater if a scene is overwhelming or use a designated safe space located by the restrooms to take a break from the play.
“For audience members familiar with the production, they’ll still see the same story, just a modified version,” said Allison Rachele Bayles, administrative director of education for the theater group. “It’s important for people, to be able as a whole family, to see a production and also be themselves. So if the mood strikes and someone wants to sing along with a carol, that’s great. We want to support their experience.”