For many families, attending a play or musical is a holiday tradition. Seeing The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol or the Nativity with family members may be a child’s first experience seeing a live performance. Staff members at area children’s theaters note that with planning, children with disabilities and their families should enjoy what may be a child’s initial theater experiences.
Audience and customer service managers at area theaters agree that with planning, a child’s first theater experience can be a positive one. But they also point out that anyone considering taking family members to a holiday show should start making plans right away. By early December many of the more popular shows may be sold out. Getting tickets during a school break can be especially difficult if a family doesn’t plan ahead. It can be especially challenging if a show’s American Sign Language or Audio-Described shows fill up quickly.
“Any family should call sooner rather than later and people should be comfortable asking about any accommodations their family may need,” said Nicki Pretzer, audience services manager at Stages Theater Company in Hopkins. “The more questions you ask, the better your experience will be.”
Families shouldn’t hesitate to call a theater and ask questions about accommodations, according to area theater staff. “It’s always helpful to know, as soon as possible, what a family’s needs are and how we can accommodate those needs,” said Christine Shyne, audience services manager for Stepping-stone Theater for Youth Development in St. Paul.
If a family has never been to the particular theater before, Shyne suggests asking to visit the theater in advance. That’s a good way to get an understanding of how a theater is laid out. Scope out where entrances, exits and the restrooms are. Does a theater have a quiet room or place where children can be taken if they become fussy?
If one or more family members use a wheelchair, find out where your family will be seated and how the family can sit together. At Steppingstone, seating is by general admission. That theater has space for six to eight people in wheelchairs to sit, so getting seats as early as possible will make it easier for families to be together. Shyne suggested that with general admission, as Steppingstone uses for its performances, families needing to sit together should ask to be seated as soon as possible.
With theaters that offer reserved seating, theater staff suggest families make their seating needs clear when purchasing tickets. Wheelchairs aren’t the only issue to consider. Pretzer said families who want to be close to aisles should ask the box office. “We also have seen families with children with disabilities wanting to sit closer to the stage,” she said. “Their children are more engaged in the production.”
Other questions to ask when planning your theater trip:
• Ask about parking accessibility.
• Ask about the length of a show. Some children have difficult sitting for more than an hour, so plan accordingly.
• If your child is startled by loud noises, flashes of light or other stimuli, ask about that before buying tickets.
• Some theaters offer discounted tickets for certain performances, such as a weeknight or matinee.
• Ask about service dogs. While service dogs must legally be allowed into a theater, ask when buying tickets if special seating is needed. Some children rely on service dogs; others may be frightened of them. Make sure there is adequate space so that every creature in your party is comfortable.
• Some theaters offer a limited number of AD/ASL performances. Others have interpreters on request. Also, ask about sensory tours before a production. Those can be fun and memorable for children.
Steppingstone Theater is presenting The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 4-22. STAGES presents Twas the Night Before Christmas Nov. 10-Dec. 28. For details, go to www.steppingstonetheatre.org or call (651) 225-9265 for Stepping-stone or www.stagestheatre.org or call (952) 979-1123 for Stages.
Here is information on other holiday performances children and young people might enjoy.
Nov. 10 – Jan. 2
Children’s Theatre Co., 2400 Third Ave. S., Mpls. AD & ASL: Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Tix: special price rates for ASL/AD patrons (reg. $27-39); Phone: (612) 874-0400; E-mail: [email protected] Web: www.childrenstheatre.org
Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold
Nov. 18 – Dec. 27
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, McKnight Theatre, 345 Washington, St. Paul. AD & ASL: Sat., Dec. 5, 2 p.m. Tix/Phone: (651) 224-4222, TTY (651) 282-3099. Web: www.ordway.org/accessibility/
A Christmas Carol
Nov. 19 – Dec. 31
Guthrie Theater, 818 2nd St. S., Mpls. Captioning: Sat., Dec. 5, 1 p.m. AD: Sat., Dec. 12, 1 p.m.; Sensory Tour 10:30 a.m.; Tues., Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. ASL: Sat., Dec. 12, 1 p.m.; Tues., Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m. Tix: Reduced to $20 for AD/ASL, $25 for caption-ing (reg. $29-70); Phone: (612) 377-2224, TTY (612) 377-6626. Web: www.guthrietheater.org/accessibility
A Christmas Carol
Nov. 20 – Dec. 20
Lyric Arts Co. of Anoka at Main St. Stage, 420 E. Main St., Anoka. ASL: Sat., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m. Tix: $13 (reg. $18, $16 student/senior), $20 box seats; Phone: (763) 422-1838. Web: www.lyricarts.org
A Tuna Christmas
Nov. 20 -Dec. 20
Bloomington Art Center’s Gallery Theater Company at Schneider Theater, 1800 W. Old Shakopee Road, Bloom-ington. ASL: Thurs., Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m. AD: Fri., Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Tix: $11 for (reg. $18, senior $16, student $14); Phone: (952) 563-8575. Web:www.bloomingtonartcenter.com
J. Marley’s Christmas Carol
Park Square Theatre, 408 Saint Peter St., St. Paul. AD & ASL: Sat., Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m. Tix: Reduced to half-price ($1850); Phone: (651) 291-7005. Web: www.parksquaretheatre.org
Beyond Broadway at Burnsville Performing Arts Center, 12600 Nicollet Ave. ASL: Thurs., Dec. 17, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 27, 2 p.m. Tix: $21.50 – $32; Phone: (952) 895-4680 or (612) 746-1374. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.burnsvillepac.com
A Christmas Carol
Fargo-Moorhead Community Theatre, 333 4th St. S., Fargo. AD: Fri. & Sat., Dec. 11-12, 7:30 p.m. Tix: Reduced to $8 (reg. $20, senior/student $14, child $8); Phone: (701) 235-6778 Web: www.fmct.org
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre at Avalon Theater, 1500 E. Lake St., Mpls. ASL: Fri., Dec. 11, 6:30 p.m. AD: Sun., Dec. 20, 6:30 p.m. Tix: $20.50 (reg. $27.50, $20 youth, senior, groups of 10+); Phone: (612) 721-2535, ext. 23; E-mail: [email protected] Web: www.hobt.org