“Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” to put on autism-friendly

Michael Williams

An autism-friendly performance of the Broadwayhit musical, ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ will hit the stage on April 27 in honor of Autism Awareness month. This performance of ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ is being organized by the Theatre Development Fund, whose mission reads:

“Theatre Development Fund, a not-for-profit organization, was created with the conviction that the live theatrical arts afford a unique expression of the human condition that must be sustained and nurtured. TDF’s twofold mission is to identify and provide support, including financial assistance, to theatrical works of artistic merit and to encourage and enable diverse audiences to attend live theatre and dance in all their venues.”

Other shows that this non-profit organization has provided for those with autism include ‘The Lion King,’ ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘Elf: The Musical.’ ‘The Lion King’ was the first ever autism-friendly show, and proved so successful that it returned for a second performance last year.

‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ was chosen as the next autism-friendly show because, according to a survey conducted by the Theatre Development Fund, this was the show that most families were interested in seeing. Representatives of this non-profit organization explained that the Broadway musical will be shown “in a friendly, supportive environment” for those with autism and their families.

According to AutismSpeaks.org, it is estimated that autism affects 1 in every 88 children, and more specifically, 1 in every 54 boys.

In the United States, autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability, and there is no cure. Some common symptoms include high sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights, difficulty sitting down for long periods of time, and a struggle to remain quiet at times.

Some adjustments to make the show more autism-friendly include limited strobe lights and a reduction of the numerous sound effects. Additionally, if anyone needs to leave their seat at any time, there will be autism experts staffing designated quiet and activity areas. These stations will include beanbag chairs as well as coloring books.

Executive Director of the Theatre Development Fund said, “Watching families experience live theatre together for the first time in an environment that was safe and supportive is a truly emotional and gratifying experience. We could never do this without the co-operation of everyone involved in the productions from the producers to the ushers.”

The Theatre Development Fund is trying to make the attendees as comfortable as possible too. Children with autism will even have access to a downloadable guide that will explain what the performance will be consist of such as the plot of the musical, what the ushers do during the show, and what to do during the duration of a curtain call.

Although these may seem obvious to people who go to Broadway shows regularly, someone with autism may be thrown off by these factors, which could ultimately negatively affect their enjoyment of the production. The Theatre Development Fund is striving to eliminate any possibilities of disappointment from those with autism when attending ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.’

Freshman Valentina Sotomayor stated, “I think this is truly a great opportunity for those with autism. Especially something like Spider-Man! There are not many children who do not like Spider-Man…”

Freshman, Nicole Sletcher, agreed saying, “Every little kid loves Spider-Man and can probably relate to him in some way. I use to babysit for my neighbor’s kid who had autism and she was limited to what she could watch on television due to the intense sound and lights. No one should be held back from what many of us do for fun and entertainment. It just wouldn’t be right.”

This show will take place at the Foxwoods Theatre located at 213 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036. Tickets are being sold solely by the Theatre Development Fund, who have promised to sell the tickets at a lower price than the usual amount. Rather than tickets ranging from $49 to $135, tickets will be sold anywhere from $30 to $80.

The producers of this musical are excited about this autism-friendly show.

In a statement, producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah J. Harris said, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to share our production with those affected by autism.” The ‘Spider-Man’ producers are hopeful this performance will be a great and enjoyable experience for those with autism.