Civic Theatre launches inclusive shows for special needs visitors

//Civic Theatre launches inclusive shows for special needs visitors

Imagine the house lights dimming so low that you are surrounded in darkness. The curtain slowly lifts. The music reverberates around you. Costumed characters parade across the stage. A hush falls over the crowd.

This experience – although enjoyable and incredibly exciting for some – can be anything but for children and adults who have special needs. Frankly it can be a source of great anxiety for theater-going parents with young children in tow.

Enter Michael Lasley, Executive Artistic Director at Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre in Carmel. About five years ago Michael was inspired by an article he read in the New York Times about creating adjusted or inclusive performances to accommodate all audience members, and he decided to bring that idea to his own theater.

Civic Theatre inclusive shows - theCityMoms

Testing the idea first with their annual Cat In The Hat productions, Michael’s team refined the inclusive offerings for kid-focused shows. But this is the first of its kind for a full production. So in announcement: Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is proud to bring an inclusive performance of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to audiences this month.

What exactly is an inclusive performance?

According to Lasley, minor adjustments are made to the production. For example, house lights are raised more than normal. Sound effects are made less overwhelming. Additional seating is provided, and an American Sign Language interpreter is available upon request.

However, the biggest adjustments are in the expectations and culture of the audience. The show becomes a “judgment free place to enjoy the theater,” according to Lasley. Because the audience is aware the performance will be inclusive, no one should feel uncomfortable if they need to move around. Guests who experience an outburst are not looked at as an inconvenience. A mother who has to take her toddler to the bathroom twenty seven times before intermission {because, parenting…} shouldn’t feel guilt or embarrassment.

MORE SUPPORTIVE READING: Introducing Synapse Sitters: A service for children with special needs

“Everyone can coexist and still have a good time,” Lasley said about inclusive performances. While not every show lends itself to an inclusive performance, he feels confident that Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a fantastic production for an inclusive audience. He hopes the show will be just one of many that the theater can offer to inclusive audiences.

Why trial it here?

Easy. Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre prides itself of being family friendly, so Lasley echoed the importance of being friendly for all families. In addition to the benefits for families with special needs, he said this is a great opportunity for families of all abilities to interact with different people.

Lasley hopes to have at least one opportunity for an inclusive show in every season. When asked if he feels like he has to compromise his artistic vision for these shows, he replied, “Theatrical design is not art – although it can be artistic – it is problem solving. This is just an added wrinkle and a fun challenge.” Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is the first theater to offer an inclusive performance in the state of Indiana, which is fitting given their mission: To foster a love of theatre through imagination, education, and participation.

Civic Theatre inclusive shows - theCityMoms

Who benefits the most from this type of show?

Lasley said that people on the Autism spectrum, people with access issues, people who require sign language interpreters, and really anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a typical theater environment, is welcomed. “The main goal is to create a safe place for families to come together and enjoy the theater,” he said.

The Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat inclusive performance will take place Saturday, January 8th. This year Cat In The Hat will offer two inclusive performances on Thursday, February 22nd and Saturday, February 24th.

So whether you have children with special needs, an adult family member with special needs, or are simply looking for a more laid-back and welcoming theater atmosphere, Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre has a home for you this season.

MORE INFO: Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat runs at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre December 15, 2017 through January 7, 2018. The show is two hours long with an intermission*. The Inclusive Performance will take place on Saturday, January 6, 2018 at 2pm. The Theatre is located at 3 Center Green #300 in Carmel, Indiana. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

*Although the show could be long for the younger set, Lasley said that just the first act alone would be a very satisfying experience for theater-goers.



Megan Bohrer headshot _ theCityMomsA recent transplant to the Midwest, Megan Bohrer still gets excited by the first snow flurries of the season. Although her husband’s job as a private school administrator brought them to the area, Megan feels more at home in Indy every day.

While she isn’t chasing after her three children or working her day job as a social worker, Megan enjoys drinking craft beer, photography, playing soccer, and fantasizing about all of the Pinterest projects she will one day complete.

2017-12-15T16:37:58-05:00December 15th, 2017|
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