November 4, 2019
For immediate release
919-821-4575, extension 221
Chapel Hill: The Raleigh Little Theatre of Raleigh, North Carolina has won a “Healthy Soundscape” award from Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet for providing “sensory-friendly performances,” with a reduction of loud or jarring sounds. The theatre’s action recognizes the fact that excessive noise is very detrimental to millions of people, especially those with autism spectrum disorders and sensory sensitivities.
Charles Phaneuf, executive director of the Raleigh Little Theatre, stated that sensory-friendly performances, in addition to a reduction of loud or jarring sounds, will also involve “reductions in flashing or strobe lights, modifications of the house lights during the performance, allowing audience members to talk or move during the show, extra staff and volunteer support, and a dedicated ‘take a break’ space.”
Phaneuf noted that the Raleigh Little Theatre “decided to produce sensory-friendly performances because we’d heard from parents of children with autism who wanted to attend events here, and we didn’t have accommodations in place. We were also aware of events like this that happen at other theaters throughout the state and country (Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, for example) and we were able to get some coaching help from Arts Access, Inc. through a new program they were launching called the Wake Arts Inclusion Project.” The Raleigh Little Theatre has worked with a specialist from the Autism Society of North Carolina on how to make performances inclusive.
The Raleigh Little Theatre’s first sensory-friendly performance was of “[email protected] Wonderland” in April 2017. Last season, they hosted three sensory-friendly performances, attended by 391 people. This season, they will have four:
- November 9: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”
- February 29: “Seussical, Jr.”
- April 4: “The Jungle Book”
- February 9: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
There has been a very positive reaction to the sensory-friendly performances. Lauren Van Hemert, who runs RDU On Stage, stated that “We all attended the Raleigh Little Theatre production of [email protected] last spring. We were both blown away by the built-in accommodations the Raleigh Little Theatre offered to families, including making fidget balls and headphones available to kids who may need them. There was even a staffed chillax area in the lobby, for families if they needed an escape from the noise or lights.”
In the Raleigh/ Durham/ Chapel Hill area, the best place to find information about sensory-friendly events is the web site of Art Access.
Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet, stated that “excessive noise is very damaging to individuals with autism (an estimated 3.5 million people) and other sensitivity disorders. Excessive noise also very damaging to individuals who are ‘highly sensitive,’ which is an estimated 15 to 20 percent of the population. Excessive noise is damaging to everyone, contributing to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, heart disease, aggravated behavior, stress, chronic fatigue, ringing of the ears, and cognitive impairment. The sensory-friendly performances at the Raleigh Little Theatre are a step in the right direction. American society as a whole needs to be much more ‘sensory-friendly.’”
Noise Free America: A Coalition to Promote Quiet is a national citizens’ organization committed to noise reduction. Past winners of the Healthy Soundscape award include Edmonton, Quebec, Canada; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Newton, Massachusetts.