After an autism-friendly showing of The Lion King on Broadway last fall, the Theatre Development Fund received interest in other shows from approximately 1,500 people. Now The Fund has bought out the 1,797-seat New Amsterdam Theatre and 1,677-seat Minskoff Theatre for a matinee performance of Mary Poppins and The Lion King, respectively.
The specially designed autism showing of Mary Poppins will be presented on April 29. Tickets are already nearly sold out, having been offered at discount prices on the Fund’s website. Tickets for the showing of The Lion King will go on sale in late spring, for the September 30 performance.
Both shows will be altered to adjust to the sensitivities of children with autism. No jarring sounds or strobe lights will be used. Quiet areas with beanbag chairs and coloring books will be set up within the theatre and staffed by autism experts, in the event anyone feels overwhelmed during the performances.
Disney Theatrical Productions consulted with experts and the Fund to identify moments within The Lion King where sounds or lights needed to be softened. The volume was toned down in the opening number, as well as on steam blasts and Mufasa’s roar. Actors still walked in the aisles, which the audience enjoyed in the performance last October.
The Fund also publishes a guide, which alerts families who have children with autism to what they can expect during the show, such as what ushers do and what happens during a curtain call. After the pilot performance in the fall, organizers learned some other things they need to focus on, like warning the audience of any props or set design that might move over the seats. They will also attempt to convert the theatre bathrooms into unisex in order to accommodate children with their parents.
The Theatre Development Fund is a nonprofit organization that aims to give access to live theatre to everyone. Read more here.