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SENSORY-FRIENDLY PERFORMANCE OF THE BROADWAY PRODUCTION, “THE LION KING,” ALLOWS NEW EXPERIENCE FOR MANY

If you have ever shuddered due to a loud noise or had to cover your eyes due to something being extremely bright, you have experienced a very small piece of what people who have sensory sensitivities deal with on a daily basis.

Individuals with sensory sensitivities, often linked to those on the autism spectrum or other mental health challenges, usually over-respond or under-respond to stimulation. This leads to them being unable to enjoy many activities and/or experiences like attending the theater. It can also cause them to be unaware of their surroundings or display extreme behaviors, such as tantrums and meltdowns.

In order to give these people an opportunity that they have not previously had, places like Stages Theatre and Children’s Theatre Company in the Twin Cities host sensory-friendly performances throughout the year. For the first time ever, the Orpheum Theatre, a Minneapolis treasure, hosted one of these special performances with “The Lion King.”

According to the StarTribune, it was the “first Broadway production to try a special ‘sensory-friendly’ staging,” read more in, ‘Lion King’ tempers the roar.

The best part? Our kids got to be a part of this extraordinary experience. Five boys and five girls from our programs took the trip to the cities to see this production of a Disney family favorite film.

“The boys were so excited for the show that they sang Disney songs in the van all the way to the cities,” said Angela Fredrickson, Riverside Clinical Director.

The Orpheum Theatre lowered the sound, kept the theater lights on at a low level, and reduced the use of strobe and other lighting. They also allowed patrons to talk freely to each other or the performers and to leave their seats during the performance. They had designated spaces for those who needed to stand or move. There were quiet areas in the theater where people could go whenever needed and the theater was filled with trained staff who were available to help with any needs of those attending.

Viewers ranged greatly in their sensitivities. Some were severely autistic, while others had a low tolerance to loud noises or bright lights. “The boys noticed some of the other kids in the theater and reported feeling like it was an awesome opportunity for those kids and their parents to be able to attend a live performance,” Angela said.

While there were changes in lights and sounds, the play was the same. Through words, music, and dance, the performers told the tale of a young lion and his pride along the cub’s incredible journey to becoming king.

“On the way home, the girls all took time to reflect on this truly amazing experience,” explained Kristy Echeverria, Prairieview Weekend Primary Counselor

Northwest Passage is always looking for new opportunities to give to our kids. The chance to go to the Orpheum Theatre is something that we could not pass up and the fact that it was a sensory-friendly performance was the icing on the cake. “Field trips to live theater enhance literary knowledge, tolerance and empathy among students,” according to a study done by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Read more in, Major benefits for students who attend live theater, study finds.

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