Rachel Sears, Education Manager of The Court Theatre, talks to Artistic Director Ross Gumbley about the theatre's relaxed performances.

Relaxed performances

Some people who may feel excluded from attending arts events (e.g. people with chronic anxiety, autism or learning disability) could benefit from the introduction of initiatives such as relaxed performances, either provided as a free event or at reduced ticket prices.

In these performances, the sound and lighting may be toned down. More crucially, however, there’s a relaxed approach to noise and movement, and a supportive environment. The auditorium will have fewer people in the audience so patrons will be able to move around more easily. There will also be a chill-out area available in the foyer so people can go out if they need a break.

Relaxed performances can be a great way to welcome disabled people and their families.

Read about The Court Theatre's relaxed performances

Read an article about how relaxed performances are transforming theatre experiences in the US

Accessibility champions

Chamber Music New Zealand

Chamber Music New Zealand has been presenting “relaxed performances” and workshops for people with intellectual disabilities since 2012. Its commitment to building new audiences and removing barriers to accessing classical music made Chamber Music New Zealand a worthy recipient of the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts for All Award 2016.  Read more about CMNZ’s Accessible Concerts Programme

The Court Theatre

In 2017, The Court Theatre received the Arts Access Creative New Zealand Arts For All Award for its commitment to developing new audiences and making theatre accessible to diverse audiences – from front-of-house and discounted tickets through to its programming and community outreach. A key component of its accessibility are the relaxed performances it runs throughout the year. 

Robyn Young, Regional Educator, Autism New Zealand, says the relaxed performances are hugely appreciated.

“Families have commented about how wonderful it is to just relax and enjoy the show without being surrounded by people who may judge and not appreciate the sensory challenges. Making the theatre less of a threatening experience is huge and we have many children and young people who find drama and theatre experiences very rewarding – as both participants and audience members. Many young people with autism are finding ‘their place’ in the performing arts, which is fabulous.

“It’s very humbling to be part of the planning for the relaxed performances. Being mindful of sensory overload, having space in the audience and providing quiet, calming areas if needed is just awesome. The value of relaxed performances cannot be underestimated on any level.” Read about accessibility at The Court Theatre

Q & A insight: relaxed performances at The Court Theatre

What are relaxed performances and what are the benefits to a theatre company in providing them? Rachel Sears, Education Manager at The Court Theatre in Christchurch, talks about the challenges but also the opportunities 
to connect with new audiences.


PDF icon Q & A: Relaxed performances at The Court Theatre
WORD iconQ & A: Relaxed performances at The Court Theatre

For other Q & A insights about accessibility





Stace Robertson: Stace is Lead Accessibility Advisor, Arts Access Aotearoa (T: 04802 4349 E: afa@artsaccess.org.nz). Stace works Monday to Thursday.  More about Stace

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Connect through music: this video was made by Lala Rolls of Island Productions Aotearoa for Arts Access Aotearoa and Chamber Music New Zealand.

Access for all:
“The good thing about being focused on access and accessibility is that you create a better experience for everybody,” says Philip Patston in this video, made by Lala Rolls of Island Productions Aotearoa for Arts Access Aotearoa. 


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