Playhouse Square remains committed to its arts education mission and is dedicated to inspiring and invigorating people of all ages, perspectives and abilities. The not-for-profit performing arts center typically offers two to three sensory-friendly performances each year to increase access and inclusion for persons with sensory needs, including those with autism.
“We have had such enthusiastic response to our sensory-friendly programming initiative,” said Playhouse Square Vice President of Community Engagement & Education Daniel Hahn. “We feel it is important to continue that work even though we cannot be together in person right now.”
On Saturday, November 14 at 11 a.m., Playhouse Square will stream a sensory-friendly concert by newlyweds Grammy Award winner Dan Zanes and Haitian-American jazz vocalist Claudia Eliaza. The concert is free to Northeast Ohio residents of Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit Counties who have sensory needs. Registration is required at playhousesquare.org.
“When we prepare for sensory-friendly performances, we provide tips and resources to help guests feel calm at the theater,” explained Hahn. “Now, we have partnered with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities and their staff psychologist Dr. Thomas Kelbley to create a new video series that guides persons with sensory needs in exploring different ways to relax and manage stress anywhere.”
This new video series can be accessed at playhousesquare.org/sensoryresources. Sensory-friendly programming at Playhouse Square is made possible with the support of Denise G. and Norman E. Wells, Jr.
In addition to working with experts to create the videos, Playhouse Square sought the input of parents whose children have sensory needs. Suzanne, a mother and caregiver from Twinsburg, shared with us: “I love that you're doing this. Having been a special needs mom and caregiver for 20 years, it's so refreshing to see this on a site that's not exclusive to our children's particular disability. I can't tell you what that means to folks like me...I wish I could, but there aren't words. It is everything!”
“Another major component of our arts education mission is to introduce schoolchildren to theater,” continued Hahn. “While there is nothing quite like the live experience, we wanted to find a way for teachers to continue sharing great quality theater for young audiences with their students.”
After receiving input from area educators, Playhouse Square worked with a number of artists to create streaming packages that include performances, educational resources created by the performers, pre- and post-show workshops created by Playhouse Square teaching artists and a teacher resource guide. The cost is $20 per classroom, per show. Streaming packages are available to Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools for free through the generosity of KeyBank. Educators may reserve access to streaming performances for schools online at playhousesquare.org.
“While current circumstances have changed many things, they have not altered Playhouse Square’s commitment to our educational mission or to providing world-class performances to our community, in particular to our children. The artists we are streaming are among the finest in their fields, and we could not be prouder to share their good work,” Hahn concluded.