Getting everyone involved!

Despite being ridiculously difficult to get your foot in the door, the theatre community is generally very accepting. This is mostly because a large majority of people involved in the theatre have been through some difficult experiences in their life. As a result, I decided to write today’s article about one of my favourite initiatives in the theatre.

lion king autism

For most marketers, the barriers that prohibit people from engaging with the theatre are accessibility, fear that they are not going to enjoy the show and, most of all, price. But there are many other barriers that are not considered very often.

For a company like Disney which will has very little trouble filling a theatre, despite the length of a performance, it is fantastic to see them step outside the box and consider some of these other barriers audience members may face. And most importantly, implement strategies to remove them. Even if it is only for one or two shows a year.

The barrier that I am talking about it autism.

Understandably, autism and theatre do not generally mix that well. This is due to the high expectations of behaviour that some theatre patrons maintain as well as the overstimulation of the stage which can feature jarring sounds and frenetic strobe lighting. As a result, going to the theatre may not be an option for families with an autistic member.

But Disney found a way around this.

Since 2011, Disney’s The Lion King has set aside two shows a year that are labelled ‘autism-friendly’. These shows feature:

  • Specifically designed foyers with quiet and activity areas should patrons feel the need to leave their seats during the show
  • A slightly modified show that removes any uncomfortable sounds and strobe lighting
  • Theatre staff and actors who have undergone training to understand the needs of an audience which features children and adults with autism
  • Tickets sold at heavily discounted prices

Originally this initiative only occurred in the Broadway production of The Lion King, but Disney decided to roll it out to their West End production. In addition, a couple of other shows on the Great White Way have followed suit and offered a couple of ‘autism-friendly’ performances such as the yearly December revival of Elf: the Musical and Spiderman: The Musical.

All these changes are led by the Autism Theatre Initiative which is gradually getting more and more shows on board with ‘autism-friendly’ performances. And I hope to see even more shows jump on the bandwagon in the future as the Broadway brand is very powerful when it comes to promotion!

While this may not be an option for the touring companies who generally only do a week of shows during their stops across America, it would be great to see some similar initiatives happening in Australian theatre where a touring show means a run of 4+ months in the same area.

While some brands get a kick out of being exclusive, it is a lot more fun to be inclusive. And, in this case, it means you get to bring the fabulous experience of theatre to a much wider audience while removing some of the barriers that stop people from engaging with your product!

Leave a comment below with any other barriers you think theatre could overcome.