Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Lion King' Plans Autism-Friendly Performance at Benedum

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Lion King' Plans Autism-Friendly Performance at Benedum

Article excerpt

A few years ago, Kelly Grudowski took her young son to see a children's show at the Benedum Center, Downtown, but they had to leave before it was over.

Jace, now 10 and on the autism spectrum, just couldn't sit through it quietly, and the Millvale mom was worried about disturbing other members of the audience.

"He did not like it," she said. "I don't know if it was the noise or lights or what."

Yet next week, she is looking forward to returning to the Benedum with Jace.

That's because the pair will be in the audience for an autism- friendly matinee performance of Disney's "The Lion King."

Pittsburgh is the third city, after New York and Houston, to experience a slightly altered performance that the Disney production introduced about three years ago, said Ken Davis, the production stage manager, at the Benedum today.

The story, costumes and live music will be the same as in any production of "The Lion King."

At the autism-friendly production, however, there will be no strobe lights. The house lights will not be dimmed all the way. There will be no sudden loud sounds. And noises such as a lion's roar will be softened. Rooms outside of the theater will be set up for children or adults who may need a quiet space or a space to fidget, and television screens will broadcast the show for those who don't want to stay in their seats. Members of the audience will also be able to use their iPads, which can help in relaxing and focusing. Parents and caregivers will not have to worry about making sure their children stay quiet and seated.

"It's an experience where, literally, people can relax and enjoy the show," Mr. Davis said.

The performance fits into the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's goal of "being as inclusive as we can," said Rona Nesbit, the organization's executive vice president. …

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