Rachel Sears, Education Manager of The Court Theatre, talks to Artistic Director Ross Gumbley about the theatre's relaxed performances.
What are relaxed performances?
A relaxed performance in a theatre or concert hall is a special performance of a show designed to welcome people who will benefit from a more relaxed performance environment. This includes people with an Autism Spectrum Condition, sensory and communication disorders or a learning difficulty.
This means there will be a relaxed attitude to noise and movement during the performance, and some small changes will be made to the light and sound effects. The auditorium will have few 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.
The Court Theatre: accessibility champions
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.”