Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
SANDY — Disney's "The Little Mermaid" is a story of inclusion and adaptability, lessons that Hale Centre Theatre has applied to a special performance planned for this weekend.
The theater will be featuring a "sensory-friendly" performance of "The Little Mermaid" on Dec. 3 to welcome audience members who might have light and sound sensitivity, or a decreased ability to remain still or silent during a production, to be part of their world.
The performance will be the first of its type for the company and is centered on inclusion, said Michael Fox, the theater's chief operations officer.
"A sensory-friendly performance is something that we have seen and heard about in theaters nationally in the last year or two, a way of including members of the community who have sometimes either felt too anxious for a full-blown performance or nervous about the way they might react as compared to other audiences. It started in the world of finding a way for those on the autistic spectrum to be able to enjoy a theatrical performance," said Fox.
The show will be altered by reducing volume levels for sound effects such as thunderstorms or gunshots, removing flashes and strobes, and never allowing the theater to go completely black.
Ushers will also be available throughout the show to assist audience members who may need to step in and out of the theater.
"We worked together as a creative team, those who designed the sound and the lights and such for the show, and came up with a list, moment by moment through the entire show, of about 55 or 60 different changes we wanted to make to reduce sudden and loud noises to reduce the impact," explained Fox.
While Fox avoids the term "adaptation" when describing the show, he believes the changes represent broader inclusion.
"It's just, it's an important piece of the puzzle to us. We're here to be a part of and just serve the community, and we don't want to miss the opportunity to serve those that don't see and feel the same way we do," said Fox.
"I would hesitate to tell anyone else what they need to do with art. But I think I would say artists, as a rule, tend to be people who want improvement in society. They want to see people included and loved and happy, and so this only makes sense to find ways to bring more members of the community in a way that works for them," he added.
The special sensory-friendly altered performance is planned for Saturday at 9 a.m. To purchase tickets or learn more about the performance, visit Hale Centre Theatre's website.