ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. — The College of the Albemarle’s theater performances of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will feel a bit different from its typical productions.
For the first time the production will be sensory friendly to provide a supportive environment for audience members with autism and other sensory processing disorders.
Audiences will notice changes to the lighting in the house and on stage, as well as reduction to loud stage noise. There’s even a wiggle room for audience members who might be overwhelmed, need a break or to stretch.
“We chose to do a sensory friendly performance mostly because we are thinking about how theater should be for everyone.” co-director Jennifer Wilson said.
She and co-director Mariah Shirer chose the show because of its representation of a group of misunderstood children.
“The Herdmans were these crazy, bullied, unaccepted kids, and I thought to myself that would be a great show.” Wilson said.
The theater department has tried to be intentional about including all types of people and subject matter in the choices of productions this year.
“We wanted to include as many of those societal issues as possible. Our first show that we opened with was ‘Once on the Island,’ and we decided to cast an entire cast of people of color … for our second show of the season we chose Harvey to address mental health,” Wilson said.
Although theater can have a special effect on the audience, it also holds special meaning for the actors on stage.
“About six years ago my youngest daughter, she’s actually in the show today, she was diagnosed with autism as a 5-year-old, and she began theater here and College of the Albemarle, but she was kind of misunderstood and got into a lot of trouble. … It became something she absolutely thrives in,” Wilson said.
Although this is the first sensory friendly show, they hope to incorporate the changes into future performances. For more information on upcoming shows visit here.