Home Confederation Centre to Introduce ‘Relaxed Performances’ at The Charlottetown Festival

Confederation Centre to Introduce ‘Relaxed Performances’ at The Charlottetown Festival

As part of efforts to be a more accessible space, Confederation Centre of the Arts is pleased to announce that it will be presenting two Relaxed Performances at The Charlottetown Festival this summer.

With the support of the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island, the Centre is working with its Festival production team to make two selected performances of Anne of Green Gables—The Musical™ more accessible.

Sometimes referred to as sensory-friendly experiences, this initiative gives the opportunity for those with various sensitivities towards sensory stimuli to experience and enjoy live theatre. The Centre also recently conducted an accessibility audit, with input from Autism P.E.I. and some of its members.

“Providing relaxed performances is one of the ways Confederation Centre is being more inclusive,” offers Steve Bellamy, CEO of the Centre. “Not everyone experiences visual and auditory stimuli or public spaces the same way. With a few adjustments to the intensity of light, sound, and theatre protocols, we can ensure that even more people have the opportunity to comfortably share in the experience of this iconic story.”

These performances, offered on Monday July 8 and Monday August 19, will be designed in a way to be more comfortable for audience members who may experience anxiety or are not comfortable with some aspects of a traditional theatre setting. This can include: people on the Autism Spectrum and their families; those with sensory and communicative disorders or learning disabilities; people with Tourette’s syndrome; someone who might need to move often due to chronic pain or to use the facilities; or even parents with toddlers.

“The Autism Society of PEI is thrilled at the initiative being taken by Confederation Centre of the Arts to host Relaxed Performance Theatre,” says Nathalie Walsh-Annand, Executive Director of Autism P.E.I. “This, alongside the recent environmental audit of the Centre’s facilities, shows an aim towards better supporting the needs of those on the Autism Spectrum, those with exceptional needs, as well as individuals with sensory sensitivities. It is wonderful to have Island organizations welcoming and including the needs of all Islanders. We all benefit from such great community support.”

Adds Luc Mcquaid, a 15-year-old Islander and member of Autism P.E.I. “I am super glad that the Centre is helping me be able to go see Anne of Green Gables! We are so excited that they are taking the trouble to accommodate this community of people.”

As for what to expect to see at these two relaxed performances: 

  • The overhead houselights will be dimmed, but remain on throughout;
  • The overall volume of the performance will be lowered;
  • Strobe lighting will be removed, as will the firing pistol used at the start of the famous Anne™ egg-and-spoon-race, and;
  • There will also be a ‘visual story’ resource that aids patrons in way-finding around the Centre and introduces characters from the show ahead of time, as well as a pre-show explanation from a member of the creative team.

In terms of the ‘etiquette loosening’:

  • Patrons will be able to move about the theatre more than usual, as well as leave the theatre at any time should they require a break (and re-enter if they feel ready to do so);
  • A special ‘calm zone’ will be set up as an option for patrons to head to relax in mid-performance, away from the busy lobby or theatre;
  • Noises and talking will also be allowed in the house – patrons should not expect a silent audience experience, and;
  • The use of support technology (tablets and phones) will be relaxed as well.

Backgrounder & Contact:

  • A special trial run of a relaxed performance will be offered for patrons and patron’s family members to explore if this theatre experience is a good for them. Prospective patrons, family members, or other interested parties can send questions to Sarah Denman-Wood at the Centre, at [email protected] or (902) 629-1175.
  • In September, Confederation Centre of the Arts hosted a three day training course in Relaxed Performance, alongside fellow representatives from Autism P.E.I., Neptune Theatre, the Victoria Playhouse, and more. This training session was led by the British Council, the United Kingdom’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, who has led these sessions for arts centres everywhere.