By: Marjorie Chan, Artistic Director and Jenn Boulay, Accessibility & Dramaturgy Intern
We’re really excited this season, as we are moving forward with our plan at Theatre Passe Muraille to make it as accessible as possible for our audiences by adopting a RELAXED ENVIRONMENT for all TPM shows.
In a relaxed atmosphere, there should be no pressure to “act” a certain way. Audiences are welcomed and encouraged to come into the space as they are. Last season, instead of doing stand alone RELAXED PERFORMANCES, we began exploring the possibility of a whole relaxed season through discussions with our producing partners, the artists and you the audience.
We noticed that for some of our cultural communities, a more relaxed or informal environment was already accepted and welcomed (such as a more open approach to audience noise or movement.) We also found that for some of our neurodiverse communities, some relaxed performances had sensory triggers not covered in the adjustments.
For us, our takeaway is that we understood that a baseline of relaxed practices was useful, easily adopted and created a more informal and welcoming environment for all audience members, not only individuals who may have a disability or a specific access need. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that those individuals needing more sensory information or adjustments in order to experience the show, were not left behind, so we began experimenting with SENSORY SENSITIVE performances.
So, instead of Relaxed Performances, which did not fully embrace everyone in the audience, we are creating a Relaxed Environment which is beneficial to everyone. And then, separately, programming Sensory Sensitive Performances for shows that need adjustment (primarily shows that are presentations, and have been developed elsewhere). This gives everyone the agency to choose the experience that is right for them, and consent to any triggering content or elements. It is a shift as we implement this across our season, but in doing so, we hope to create a more welcoming and inclusive space for everyone. Thank you for taking this journey with us!
For any concerns, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 416 504 8988 and we hope to see you at the theatre!
Wait, didn’t TPM already do Relaxed Performances?
We did, but only offered one or two per production. We are moving to having a Relaxed Environment throughout the season.
So, why a Relaxed Environment?
A Relaxed Environment is more welcoming. We believe that a more informal approach welcomes more individuals, regardless of their access needs, and regardless of whether or not, they may identify as disabled. Traditional theatre environments often can feel stifling and formal, which we, at TPM do not believe is conducive to the ability to enjoy a show. And for some individuals with access needs, traditional environments do not make it possible for them to attend at all. A few small adjustments and removal of a few barriers allow for a broader range of audiences to be comfortable at TPM shows.
What should I expect when I come to the theatre?
A great show 😜 But also we want you to feel comfortable! That can mean a lot of different things, but basically manifests as a more informal approach to being in the theatre, and less stigma about audience movement or sound. This also means that we trust our audiences to respectfully exit or re-enter, should their needs require it. To facilitate that, our artists are encouraged to have a low level of light available for audiences to safely navigate their way through the theatre. As well, a visual story will always be available online, which contains more detailed information about the show, should someone require that before consenting to the experience of the show.
Will I be bothered during a show?
Most of the time we naturally edit out background noise, particularly if we know why it is happening. If you are deeply engaged in a performance, experience tells us that you will not get distracted. Think of the last time you were watching a show on TV at home, and your children were playing in the other room. Or at the movies, someone may need to exit your row to use the washroom, and yet your focus remains on the story in front of you. Many of those who attended a Relaxed Environment performance have often said that the relaxed atmosphere has actually enhanced their experience, as they did not feel self-conscious if they needed to shift in their seat, or move to an appropriate place to stand because of back pain.
What is a Sensory Sensitive Performance?
A Sensory Sensitive performance at Theatre Passe Muraille includes the established Relaxed Environment PLUS the sound, lighting and projections or elements of the performances may be altered or designed for that specific show to better meet the access needs of any audience members who may be sensitive to sensory stimulation.
Why might I want to go to a Sensory Sensitive Performance?
Many people may choose to attend a Sensory Sensitive Performance, either as an access need or because they like the inclusive environment. For example, the sensory stimulation of a traditional theatre show may be too overwhelming. But in a Sensory Sensitive performance, effects may be slowed down or kept to a minimum, and light or sound may be adjusted. If you identify as being autistic, neurodivergent, disabled, and/or you simply don’t feel that traditional theatre environments meet your access needs, you might choose to go to a Sensory Sensitive performance.
For more detailed information please see Relaxed Environment page