CHICAGO — Bright lights, loud noises and
shushes from the audience can make the theatre an unwelcoming place for
children with sensory sensitivities. To soften those challenges, The Theatre
School at DePaul University is offering a sensory-friendly performance of Dr.
Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” on May 6 at 2 p.m. at the Merle Reskin Theatre in
Chicago’s South Loop. Regular performances of the play run through May 26.
“There is a lack of theatrical opportunities for children
with autism. So we’re very excited and proud to be doing this,” said theatre
manager Leslie Shook. “‘The Cat in the Hat’ is a book many children read.
They’re familiar with the characters, and the script is the book. So I think
kids will enjoy seeing the story come to life before their very eyes.”
The sensory-friendly performance will
incorporate modifications making it more accessible to children with autism or
sensory sensitivities. Changes include dim, instead of dark, house lights. In
addition, coordinators and performers will warn sensory-sensitive audience
members in advance of any strobe lights, sudden noises, or loud effects, or
they will simply eliminate them.
DePaul faculty and staff also created a quiet room with a
puzzle rug and beanbag chairs where children can take a break. Faculty from
DePaul’s College of Education coordinated with The Theatre School to create a
safe space in the theatre.
The production tells the story of Sally and her brother, who
are bored on a rainy day, when the Cat in the Hat appears with tricks and
things and games to play. Their day is filled with mischief and imagination
despite protests from their fish.
“It’s so charming to watch this,” Shook said. “With the
costumes and the sets, it’s beautifully designed. I’m very excited to see it on
our stage.” “The Cat in the Hat” is a part of The Theatre School's
Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences Series.
The production is directed by Jeff Mills, an assistant
professor of movement and an award-winning actor, director, teacher, fight
director and musician. He is best known for his work with the award-winning
BOXTALES Theatre Company in Santa Barbara, California. As a core member of
BOXTALES, Mills co-created 10 original works, including his direction of “OM:
An Indian Tale of Good and Evil (The Ramayana)” and his portrayal of
Odysseus in “The Odyssey.”
The cast features Emily
Anderson (Thing 1), Lyndsey Betham (Sally), Gregory Fields (The Cat), Isabelle Jennings (Thing 2),
Jack Lancaster (Narrator), Vinh Nguyen (Brother) and
Harmony Zhang (The Fish).
The production team includes Jennifer Wernau (scenic design), Elizabeth Martinez (costume design), Alexandra Jonasse (lighting design), Haley Feiler (sound design), William Young (technical direction), Patricia Mahoney (dramaturgy) and Danny
Fender (stage management).
“The Cat in the Hat” is onstage through May 26, at
DePaul’s historic Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo Drive. Performances are
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m., and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Special Friday
performances will occur April 27 and May 11 at 10 a.m. There is no May 5 performance.
The show is recommended for ages 4 and older.
The May 10 performance will be
audio described. The May 11 and 12 performances will be interpreted in American
Sign Language. Call TTY: 773-325-7975 for more information. A post-show discussion will follow the May 19
performance. Details are available at http://bit.ly/DPUcatinhat.
Tickets are $10. Subscriptions
and group rates for 15 or more people are available. DePaul employees, alumni
and college students receive a discount (with ID). Active military and their
families receive a discount (with ID). Tickets are available at http://theatre.depaul.edu or by calling
the box office at 312-922-1999.
Kristin Claes Mathews