Beauty and the Beast the Musical to Host Brisbane ‘Relaxed Performance’ in May

With loud noises, dark lights and plenty to overwhelm the senses, it can be challenging for some, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, to attend certain live performance productions. Similar to what they have offered in previous states and for many of their past musicals, Disney Theatrical Group Australia is partnering with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and Autism Queensland to offer a relaxed performance of Beauty and the Beast the Musical. This performance will take place on 11 May 2024 at 1.30pm, and will be an experience tailored from the moment a patron arrives, to the time they depart, to ensure audience members who may need specific support can attend a performance and have their requirements met.

What is a relaxed performance? It is a performance where some of the normal conventions of attending a live performance event are relaxed – and audience members are encouraged to be themselves throughout the performance – make sounds move around, fidget, or use noise cancelling headphones among other requirements. But the experience is further tailored, from specific lighting, to safe spaces for patrons to unwind, to the creation of ‘social stories’ to help support patrons become familiar and comfortable with going to the theatre.

According to Disney Theatrical Group Australia:

Aspect’s Autistic staff assessed the show and recommended modifications for the relaxed performance that consider the diversity of audience preferences, including sensory sensitivities. Adjustments include a visual story that explains the show step by step, inclusive and welcoming language used on the official website and during the ticket buying process, increased staff and volunteers to assist audience members, turning off all announcements throughout the theatre, and providing a dedicated quiet room and multiple quiet spaces for use by anyone who needs a break from the performance. Amendments to the production for the cast and crew include noise reduction, keeping the house lights dim during the performance, and employing visual cues to act as a ‘pre-warning’ mechanism prior to potentially overwhelming scenes or moment.

Additionally, a pre-show welcome hosted by Emma Watkins (Emma Memma, formerly part of The Wiggles) will take place, and has been designed to introduce the audience to certain characters and stage effects that may be unpredictable or sensorially significant in advance.

Tickets to the relaxed performance will be available across three price points: $60, $85 and $125, with no further ticketing fees. The tickets are available to purchase via the QPAC website or by calling their box office on 136 246. While accessible to everyone and arguably at a cheaper price, I would strongly recommend keeping the tickets for the families and patrons who would benefit most from the relaxed performance, and if you do attend, be aware of everything above.

This is one of several performances offered by Disney Theatrical Group Australia, aimed at making their theatrical performances more accessible and inclusive towards the requirements of their patrons. They will also be offering an Audio Described Performance on Sunday 5 May 2024 at 1.00pm, and an Auslan Interpreted Performance on Sunday 19 May 2024 at 1.00pm. A sincere kudos to the creative team for arranging these opportunities. For more information on all the initiatives, including the visual story created for QPAC, click HERE.

Commenting on the announcement, The Walt Disney Company Australia and New Zealand Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Kylie Watson-Wheeler, shared:

The Walt Disney Company is proud to have worked alongside our incredible partners in Aspect, QPAC and Autism Queensland to offer a relaxed performance of Beauty and the Beast. This tale as old as time is powerful and inspiring and we’re excited it can be offered in accessible and inclusive ways for everyone to enjoy.

Additionally, Aspect’s Autistic Consultant Emma Gallagher added:

As an Autistic consultant, it was my pleasure to attend a regular session of Beauty and the Beast in order to provide feedback on the show and the experience along with another Autistic colleague. We conducted this assessment in order to make recommendations on modifications that will allow Autistic people and others with a disability to be able to access and enjoy the show. Representatives from Disney and QPAC have welcomed all feedback and worked hard to ensure that feedback from Autistic people is highly valued and have implemented many changes that will make the relaxed session a fun experience for those who may not be able to attend a regular session due to sensory overload. I am looking forward to attending the relaxed session knowing I have a quiet space when I need it

While Pam Macrossan, CEO of Autism Queensland also expressed their gratitude towards Disney Theatrical Group and QPAC for their commitment to creating this inclusive, relaxed performance of Beauty and the Beast the Musical

This collaboration exemplifies the importance of understanding and accommodating diverse needs within our community. Autism Queensland is proud to be part of this endeavour and we look forward to collaborating on future initiatives working towards the inclusion of all people, in all places and all spaces.

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas also weighted in and acknowledge the importance of making the arts accessible to everyone:

One of our key drivers at QPAC is ensuring that everyone can experience the incredible power of live performance. We couldn’t be happier to be a part of this initiative that removes barriers for those who otherwise might not be able to enjoy this remarkable production. Disney is pulling out all stops to ensure that this performance is even more special than ever and we’re proud to stand alongside them to deliver a wonderfully inclusive experience for all.

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