Wheelock Family Theatre Hosts Autism Friendly Performance

April 27, 2013

Continues Theatre's tradition of inclusion and access for historically under-served populations

Pippi Longstocking at Wheelock Family TheatreContinuing its unwavering commitment to inclusive, community-based theatre, Wheelock Family Theatre hosted its first theatrical production adapted specifically for children with autism and their families.

The performance was designed to be autism-friendly based upon autism research and learnings from College faculty and other disability-friendly performances. The show featured adjusted sound levels and modified lighting and all patrons were offered aisle seats for easy access. The Wheelock College Autism Club provided volunteers to create an understanding and safe environment for children and their families while enjoying the play. To help families know what to expect during the show, a PDF social guide was provided in advance and an opportunity to "meet your seat" was hosted at the Theatre the week prior.

Wheelock Family Theatre realizes the mission of Wheelock College to improve the lives of children and families. Attending a performance can be a means of self-revelation for a child, a basis for identification with different characters and empathy for others by inspiring both individualism and responsibility.

This production of Pippi Longstocking is an adaptation of Astrid Lindgren's much loved heroine by Thomas W. Olson. Pippi's enduring appeal to young people lies in her strength and resilience in overcoming what could be seen as overwhelming obstacles. She first appeared in a series of Swedish children's books written in 1945. She frequently mocks and dupes the adults she encounters; however, she reserves her worst behavior for those who are pompous and condescending. Her exuberance for life and her unconventional free spirit allow her to see herself as the heroine of a great adventure. Pippi Longstocking is a colorful and fast-paced "tall tale", sure to entertain all ages.

"Kids with autism get silenced in all kinds of ways, and we hope they will see themselves in Pippi. Just as Pippi has her own unique set of strengths and she experiences her world differently, so do kids with autism. Parents of children with disabilities can often find themselves socially and emotionally isolated, with treatment of children coming within the strict parameters of a school system. Wheelock Family Theatre understands the importance of teaching to children of multi-intelligences, not through rote content, but with a focus on problem solving through a multi-sensory approach. Indeed, one size does not fit all." 

-Wendy Lement , Producer Wheelock Family Theatre

Wheelock Family Theatre is a professional, nonprofit theatre associated with Actor's Equity, the union of professional actors and stage managers. Located on the campus of Wheelock College, Wheelock Family Theatre seeks to improve the lives of children and families through the shared experience of live theatre.

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