Adjusting live performances to fit the needs of audience members with autism or other sensory issues is nothing new. Creating an interactive show especially suited to a neurodiverse audience is less common.
Staff and students from Michigan State University’s (MSU) theater department created “Farm! A Musical Experience,” to fit exactly that niche.
According to articles published by ABC News, MSU theater faculty member and outreach coordinator Dionne O’Dell worked with a class of students last year to create “Farm.” First, O’Dell visited and worked with theater companies specializing in shows for audiences with special needs. Then, after completing the script, the cast tested the show on students studying special education.
Once she felt the show was ready, O’Dell took “Farm” on tour to local schools earlier this year.
Taking the time to research and test the show paid off. One special educator—whose group of students experienced the performance last spring—said even the students who usually can’t sit still and focus for long periods were engrossed from start to finish. Co-creator and actor Ryan Duda, O’Dell’s research assistant during the writing of the show, believes they successfully created a performance that went beyond entertainment for the audience.
“We wanted the show to be very interactive,” says Duda. “We catered to the kids based on what they responded to. They even had a say in the plot. It was really well-received.”
Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for the ASHA Leader. firstname.lastname@example.org.