Our Digital Marketing Coordinator, Caitlin Howle, sat down recently with Daniel Perkins, member of Spectrum Theater Ensemble as well as House Assistant at Trinity Rep, and Clay Martin who helped launch the sensory-friendly series at Trinity Rep to talk to them about their work with the sensory-friendly performances and what people on the autism spectrum, as well as those who aren’t, can expect from our sensory-friendly performances.

In support of our commitment to theater for all, we are happy to feature a series of moderately-adjusted performances of shows in the 2018-19 Season to meet the needs of audience members with autism and/or with sensory processing disorders.

Sensory-friendly performances will be identical to other performances of the run but will feature a lantern placed discreetly in the theater to let patrons know when a loud sound or intense lighting cue (such as strobe lights) is about to play, giving them the chance to close their eyes or block their ears.

Clay Martin and Daniel Perkins

Caitlin Howle: What should someone coming to a sensory-friendly performance expect?

Daniel Perkins: They should expect it to be like a regular performance, but we add accommodations. We have a red light for shows with really intense triggers that goes off 10-15 seconds before the trigger occurs. We also give out a list of possible triggers before the performance in each program, as well as a glossary as to what to expect from this type of audience from those who don’t have PTSD or sensory-processing disorders.

We want to integrate both neurotypical audience members and audience members with sensory-processing disorders into one show so people know we can all be equal. I love it when that happens in a show when both sides of the coin come together. It’s one of my favorite moments.

Caitlin: Can you give me an example of a trigger you’ve seen in a show? What kind of things does the warning light show before?

Daniel: Spoiler alert for those who didn’t see Ragtime, there’s a moment in the end when a gunshot goes off. We definitely did the red light for that one! If it’s going to be really intense with the lighting or sound, we’ll put on that light.

Clay Martin: We want to make sure that the list of triggers in the program is there for everyone, but it does include parts of the show that you may not want to see – or what we call spoilers. So just be aware if you are going to read that list.

Caitlin: What is the difference between sensory-friendly and sensory-friendly plus?

Daniel: Sensory-friendly has the trigger list and light, but we also have safe spaces for if audience members become overwhelmed, nothing is taken out of the show. Sensory-friendly Plus is where we do take out a few jarring effects, as well as have a play area for kids who may feel overwhelmed, and we keep the house half-lit so people can find their way out.

Clay: I would say sensory-friendly plus would be what some people think as a traditional sensory-adjusted performance in that we actually adjust sound and light cues to help adjust the intensity of the performance.

We found that some adults, with varying degrees of sensory needs, want to see shows that are more consistent with the production. That’s why we have sensory-friendly, it’s the regular show with a warning, no other changes. Sensory-friendly plus is more based on having the show slightly change.

Caitlin: What do you wish the public knew about sensory-friendly performances?

Daniel: We’re trying to break away from the mold of what’s considered sensory-friendly. Once Clay told me about this initiative, I wanted to see more. I wanted to see more audiences of blended neurotypical and members with autism, PTSD, and other sensory-processing disorders. We started that this year. It was like a match being lit, and we’re only just beginning.

Clay: I think a lot of people think that these performances are only for people with autism. They’re not, so many people can benefit from these shows. For example, some older members of audiences might want the warnings or those who are neurotypical. Also, if you want an immersive experience in what it’s like to be on the autism spectrum, this is a great way to experience that. It’s a free education!

Caitlin: Tell me about the people who work at each sensory-friendly performance.

Daniel: We have a trained staff at each performance to work with our audience members. You get the best of both worlds. You get someone who may know what you’ve experienced, and some who are trained to aid our audiences if they’re struggling during the performance.

Clay: From the moment someone walks in the door, we’re here for them. We have greeters at the door, we have people to lead you to your seat, too.

Daniel: We have people who also check-in with you and make sure that you’re doing okay at intermission and we always have a pre-show speech, usually done by yours truly.

Caitlin: What is one last thing that you want people to know about the sensory-friendly performances or the sensory-friendly initiative?

Clay: We will not separate you from the general population. We want you to be included, and we will include you. We are continuing to expand. We’re very thankful and proud of Trinity Rep for being a beacon and the first place that’s really helped develop the sensory-friendly season. We’re having theaters in other parts of the country, like Indiana Rep, who will be doing their first sensory-friendly seasons because of the work that Trinity Rep has done.

Caitlin: Alright you two, last question. What shows are you most excited about in Trinity Rep’s 2018-19 season?

Daniel: Pride and Prejudice, because it’s my mom’s favorite book, and Little Shop of Horrors! I love the music.

Clay: The dual performances of black odyssey and The Iliad, as well as Marisol. José Rivera is an amazing playwright.

The sensory-friendly season can be subscribed to for as little as $114 for six shows and those shows are at the following dates:

Pride and Prejudice on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 at 7:30 pm

black odyssey on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Macbeth on Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at 7:30 pm

The Song of Summer on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Little Shop of Horrors on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Marisol on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 at 7:30 pm

Our sensory-friendly plus performances are only for A Christmas Carol on Saturday, November 17, 2018 at 12:00 pm and Little Shop of Horrors on Saturday, May 11, 2019 at 2:00 pm. Individual tickets for these performances begin at $25.

If you are interested in becoming a part of our sensory-friendly season, or individual sensory-friendly plus performances, please go to our website, or call our box office at (401) 351-4242.