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Autism-Friendly Theater: 'Curious Incident' Performance Allows Phones And Noise During Show... And More Arts News

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AUTISM FRIENDLY THEATER
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Oftentimes audience members using electronic devices, making loud noises, or freely entering and exiting the theater during a performance are considered rude and promptly shushed. Yet such distractions can be involuntary reactions from audience members with special needs -- something The Relaxed Performance Project aims to address at an upcoming performance in London.

The Independent (UK) reports that a June 22 staging of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" at the Apollo Theater will be a "relaxed performance." The choice is particularly appropriate considering Christopher John Francis Boone, the protagonist of "The Curious Incident," faces an unspecified condition that resembles Asperger’s syndrome.

This inclusive initiative comes two years after Gregor Morris, a 12-year-old with autism, was kicked out of a performance of "Wicked" for laughing too loudly. Morris' father told the Standard: "I will never forget the look of shock in the faces of people nearby as we were asked to leave, and for the humiliation caused to Gregor."

The Relaxed Performance Project aims to include audience members with social impairments through gestures such as reducing loud noises, allowing audience members to roam freely around the theater and to use their iPhones as desired. The cast and crew are trained ahead of time to prepare for additional distractions to the performance.

This isn't the first time a theater has tried catering to patrons with special needs, however. In 2011, the Theatre Development Fund in New York broke the mold by offering an autism-friendly performance of "The Lion King" -- the first Broadway show of its kind.

What do you think, readers? Is this the best experimental theater idea since Tweet Seats? Let us know your thoughts. In the meantime, see some notorious theatrical interruptions in the slideshow below.

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