MEET YOUR SEAT: Performing Arts Accessibility for Audiences on the Autism Spectrum

Masters thesis paper prepared for Drexel University Arts Administration Graduate Program

This thesis encourages theaters to develop productions for children on the autism
spectrum and their families. Interviews with potential audience members and an analysis
of recent sensory-friendly performances demonstrate that an accessible show, with slight
modifications to the production and circumstances, can enrich the audience’s social and
emotional life while allowing theaters to form a relationship with a new constituency.
Theaters should plan a sensory-friendly show in accordance with a mission to provide
experiences for diverse sectors of the community and to offer quality accessible
productions for an otherwise neglected audience. Administrators must recognize that the
program’s financial profitability is unlikely to match the investment made by the theater
to produce it. Interested theaters can follow their predecessors’ guidelines and
suggestions, making a commitment to serve the autism community and treating this
programming as an integral part of their overall program planning process, rather than as
an audience development tool.

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