DreamWrights Director of Education Shannon Hallisey wants to make theater available to everyone.
"It would certainly be sad to lose the aspects of theater," she said, describing the limitations some audience members face.
Accessibility: For the past 5 years, the theater has offered audio-described performances for the four main stage performances, as well as the summer show. An audio description of the visual elements in the performance - the action, costumes and scenery - are broadcast via an FM receiver to patrons utilizing the service.
Hallisey said having the service not only opens up the performances to a wider audience, but also relieves pressure on family members and guests who accompany patrons who are blind or have low vision.
"Everyone can enjoy the show, and not have to worry about keeping up with describing things, or missing part of the show," Hallisey said. "We see grandparents now accompanying their grandchildren, when maybe they wouldn't have felt comfortable or had the chance before."
Hands-on: DreamWrights also offers a touch tour on the day of the audio-described performances. Hallisey said guests are taken backstage prior to the performance for a tactile experience that helps the audience to visualize hard-to-describe elements of the show.
"They feel the props, feel the texture of them, we walk the set to get a sense of the dimensions of the set and what everything is on stage," she said.
The option, Hallisey said, has been a success - and now DreamWrights will have a new addition to its accessibility options that Hallisey hopes opens the theater to an even wider audience.
Sensory-friendly: The theater will begin offering sensory-friendly performances with its new show, "Doctor Dolittle," opening Friday at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theater in York.
The show is aimed at audiences who experience sensory sensitivities - aversion to loud sounds, or sudden light changes - or have autism. By making the theater experience a little more friendly to these audience members' needs, Hallisey said, DreamWrights is hoping to make the theater a more welcoming place.
The idea came from a workshop at the Kennedy Center. Hallisey said it seemed like something that could easily be added to DreamWrights accessibility options.
Meet your seat: Prior to the sensory-friendly performance, audiences are invited to a "Meet Your Seat" open house from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at DreamWrights, 100 Carlisle Ave., York.
Families will tour the theater space and experience it without the pressure of an audience, Hallisey said. They can choose the seats that work best for their needs, as well. Guests will also receive a list of sensory triggers that are scheduled throughout the performance to more easily prepare themselves.
The theater will also offer a quiet area adjacent to the theater space, in case the show does become overwhelming to guests. A television will broadcast the performance so that participants can still see the show, without being too close to the action.
"If they need a little break, this gives them the chance to participate in the show but not be right in the theater," Hallisey said.
The theater plans to offer sensory-friendly performances for two more shows this year - one in the fall and during the annual Christmas show. Hallisey said she hopes to add the option as a regular offering during next year's season.
"We'd just love to make the theater available to families and children," she said.
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Talk to the animals
"Doctor Dolittle" opens on stage at 6:30 p.m. Friday at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre, 100 Carlisle Ave., York. Performances are scheduled at 6:30 p.m. May 9-10, 16-17 and 23-24, and at 2:30 p.m. May 10-11, 17-18, and 24-25.
DreamWrights will offer two performances to accommodate guests with special needs; an audio description performance is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17, and a sensory-friendly performance is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 18.
A special playlet character breakfast for ages 3-6 will be offered at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 24. Kids will enjoy breakfast with characters from the show, a brief scene and more.
Tickets: $8-$12. Information: 717-848-8623 or dreamwrights.org.