Six years ago, my friend Lisa took Daisy to the theater for the first time. It was a production of one of Nadal’s plays adapted for schools. The theater’s total darkness, as well as the varying volume of sounds and voices, caused both mother and daughter to leave the show ten minutes after it started. Daisy has sensory difficulties related to her autism, and at that moment, Lisa, who among other things works as a performing arts professor at the University of California, began her own journey to find ways to make the theater accessible to people with disorders within the autism spectrum.
For Lisa Porter, culture and the theater are her life, and seeing that her daughter could not share in her passion pushed her to produce “sensory-friendly” performances: these are plays that avoid harsh sounds, intermittent lights, and special effects. These are productions that accept an audience who will move about freely, exit the room or makes noises. The lights inside the theater always remain on and families are allowed early access so that people with sensory difficulties have time to get to know the space and feel comfortable.
The plays are the same, the cast and company of actors don’t change. Lisa prepares the actors and the production team so they may understand their audience’s context and needs.
Six years later, three companies in San Diego offer “sensory-friendly” performances. This is all due to the determination of a woman who knew how to find the tools to help artists and society, in general, to understand and accept neuronal diversity. Culture is a right. For all.