“Into the Woods” won a Tony Award after its 1986 world premiere at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. Back in San Diego, it could win more plaudits for its quieter staging aimed at autistic children and adults.
An “autism-friendly” performance of the musical featuring characters from “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rapunzel” and “Cinderella” is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9.
“Slight adjustments will be made to the production including fewer loud noises and flashing lights that may be challenging for some audience members,” the Globe said Monday in announcing an extension of the current production.
Other features will help make the experience safer and more enjoyable for children with autism and other sensitivity issues, the Globe said.
That includes a pre-show visit to the Globe, called “Meet Your Seat,” offered at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, to familiarize children with Balboa Park and the Old Globe Theatre.
“An online social story will be available shortly for parents to view and print at home that outlines in words and pictures the experience that families will enjoy during their trip,” the Old Globe said. “The lobby of the theater serves as a quiet area for children who may need to leave their seat during the show, and on-site volunteers will be on hand to assist families as needed as they arrive at the Globe and throughout the performance.”
Moreover, on Dec. 13, the Globe plans an autism-friendly performance of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
In 2011, the Theatre Development Fund launched a program to “make theatre accessible to children and adults on the autism spectrum.”
The Autism Theatre Initiative staged musicals including “Lion King” and “Mary Poppins” with quiet areas in the lobby and reduced strobe light use and noise.
More recently, one-day autism-friendly performances on Broadway included “ELF, The Musical” and “Spider-man: Turn Off The Dark.”
These followed the example of sensory-friendly films.
According to the Autism Society, the concept was “born in 2007, when Marianne Ross of Elkridge, Maryland, took her young daughter, Meaghan, to a matinee … to see a movie starring one of her most beloved actors.”
She intentionally picked an early showing, figuring fewer people would be present, but when 7-year-old Meaghan saw her favorite character she began to flap her hands, dance, twirl and jump up and down.
“Unfortunately a few other movie-goers complained to staff, and the manager asked the Rosses to leave,” said the society’s website.
The next day, Marianne Ross called the AMC Theatre in Columbia, Maryland, and asked for a special screening for children on the autism spectrum. It was promised, and Ross spread the word — drawing 300 people.
“Into the Woods” will now run through Aug. 17.
Tickets for the extension go on sale to the public at noon Tuesday.
Performances began July 12, with Opening Night on July 17, on the Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage in the Old Globe Theatre, part of the Globe’s Conrad Prebys Theatre Center.
Single tickets start at $29. Tickets can be bought online at TheOldGlobe.org, by phone at (619) 23-GLOBE or by visiting the box office at 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.
Discounts are available for full-time students, patrons 29 years of age and younger, seniors, and groups of 10 or more.