Demystifying Relaxed Performances: A Welcoming World for All

Have you ever heard of “relaxed performances” but weren’t sure what they entailed? This blog dives into the world of relaxed performances, answering questions for both patrons and those looking to create them

What is a Relaxed Performance?

Relaxed performances are designed to create a more comfortable environment for audience members. For example, changes are made to the performance itself and the venue to better accommodate people with disabilities, disorders, or sensory sensitivities. Moreover, this allows them to enjoy the show alongside other patrons in a more relaxed setting.

Think of it as a performance where comfort takes center stage, fostering a welcoming atmosphere for everyone. These adjustments can range from production tweaks to altered performance delivery and modifications to the venue itself. It’s important to note that not all relaxed performances are identical, and experiences may vary depending on the show and venue.

In short, relaxed performances offer an improved audience experience, making the arts more accessible to a wider audience.

Man appears on stage in theater with many people.

Who Offers Relaxed Performances?

Their popularity is growing worldwide. Theatres, auditoriums, arenas, and even private venues can be transformed into relaxed spaces. Additionally, various types of performances can be adapted, including:

  • Music concerts
  • Dance productions
  • Theatre plays
  • Comedy shows
  • Magic acts
  • Puppetry

The list goes on!

Important Distinction: Relaxed Performances vs. Sensory-Friendly Movies

While both relaxed performances and sensory-friendly movies cater to similar audiences, they’re not exactly the same. For example, sensory-friendly movies typically focus on adjustments to the film’s audio and visual elements within a traditional movie theatre setting. On the other hand, relaxed performances, on the other hand, can encompass a wider range of modifications tailored to the specific performance and venue.

Who Attends Relaxed Performances?

People who experience sensory overload are more likely to seek out relaxed performances. Sensory overload happens when the senses become overwhelmed by excessive stimulation. This can be due to an underlying disorder, disability, or simply increased sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or touch. With our world becoming busier and more stimulating, the number of people experiencing sensory sensitivities is rising.

These type of adapted performances provide a comfortable alternative, allowing patrons to enjoy the show without the fear of sensory overload.

Why Attend a Relaxed Performance?

Seeking to understand sensory overload and relaxed performances? Let’s break it down.

Sensory overload occurs when the senses are overstimulated. Performances, by nature, are rich sensory experiences, bombarding the audience with sights, sounds, and sometimes even smells. For people with sensory sensitivities, this can be overwhelming and lead to discomfort or distress.

Relaxed performances address this by creating a more manageable sensory environment. This makes the experience more enjoyable for patrons who might otherwise struggle in a traditional setting. Additionally, the relaxed atmosphere fosters greater understanding from other audience members and staff.

Creating a Relaxed Performance

Interested in making your performance more accessible? Here are some recommendations to get you started. Remember, you don’t have to implement all of them, but the more you incorporate, the more relaxed the experience will be.

It’s important to consult your local regulations regarding accessibility standards for people with disabilities.

Here are some ways to make your performance more relaxed:

  • Visual:
    • Adjust lighting to be less dramatic.
    • Avoid using spotlights on the audience.
    • Leave house lights on low.
  • Sound:
    • Reduce the overall volume level.
    • Offer audio description headsets for patrons who are blind or visually impaired.
    • Consider providing closed captions.
  • Movement and Balance:
    • Allow for more movement in the audience.
    • Provide ample space for patrons using mobility devices and their companions.
    • Offer reserved seating options.
  • Taste and Smell:
    • Limit or eliminate the use of stage smoke or fog.
    • Consider allowing patrons to bring their own food and drinks (venue restrictions may apply).
  • General:
    • Provide advance notice of any potentially overwhelming sensory elements in the performance.
    • Offer sensory kits with noise-canceling headphones, fidget toys, or visual schedules.
    • Involve performers, production staff, and house staff in brainstorming relaxed performance strategies.
    • Develop a brochure or website information page detailing the relaxed performance modifications.
    • Briefly announce some of the changes to the audience before the show begins.

Making these adjustments not only enhances accessibility but also contributes to a more inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone.

Infographic highlighting ways to make a sensory relaxed performance.


Expanding Your Toolkit: Resources for Creating Relaxed Performances

Whether you’re a seasoned theatre professional or simply passionate about bringing the arts to a wider audience, there are fantastic resources available to support your journey into greater accessiblity and inclusion for your audience. Let’s explore four options that can empower you to make a difference:

Empowering Creativity: DIY Relaxed Performances

Beyond attending relaxed performances, unleash your creativity and consider hosting your own! Thanks to fantastic resources like Side Door, matching performers with unique spaces has never been easier. Imagine a relaxed performance in your own backyard, a community center, or even a friend’s living room!

This opens the door for truly customized experiences. Tailor the performance and environment to your specific needs and preferences. Love musicals but struggle with loud music? Host a relaxed sing-along with acoustic instruments. Envision a sensory-friendly puppet show for young children? Designate a quiet play area alongside the performance space.

The possibilities are endless! So, grab your imagination, explore resources like Side Door, and create a relaxed performance that perfectly reflects your vision.

Leading the Way: Learn from Sensory-Friendly Champion Christina Martin

Singer-songwriter Christina Martin is a true champion for sensory-friendly experiences. As a recipient of Sensory Friendly Solutions training, her dedication to inclusivity goes beyond offering sensory-friendly shows – she’s constantly learning and innovating to make the arts accessible for everyone.

Want to be inspired by her work? Check out our mini-documentary, “Too Busy. Too Noisy. Too Bright,” which features Christina Martin. In it, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of sensory overload and the power of creating welcoming spaces for all.

Shedding Light on Success: Research on Sensory-Friendly Theatre

Want to delve deeper? Check out the research paper, “Community Cultural Arts Participation through Sensory Friendly Theatre: Parent and Organization Experiences and Perspectives” by Caroline J. Umeda (2017) that explores the impact of a sensory-friendly theatre program for children with sensory sensitivities 1

Putting Theory into Practice: A Sensory-Friendly Case Study

Sensory Friendly Solutions isn’t just about offering resources – we are actively leading the way in creating inclusive experiences. Take a closer look at our successful collaboration with Young People’s Theatre (YPT) to transform a seemingly “sensory-rich” play, “The Darkest Dark,” into a sensory-friendly triumph.

Create a More Welcoming World and Tame Sensory Overload

Get expert tips and resources delivered straight to your inbox! 

  • Craft sensory-friendly experiences 
  • Understand sensory sensitivity and overload
  • Make a difference in the lives of others
  • Be the first to know when new courses and products are launched
I am interested in:(Required)
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Source

  1. Umeda, C. (2017). Community Cultural Arts Participation through Sensory Friendly Theatre: Parent and Organization Experiences and Perspectives. Digital Library Washington. https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/40803/Umeda_washington_0250E_18109.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=n
Skip to content