Malvern’s People’s Light Leads Theatre Cohort in Increasing Accessibility Across Region


Malvern’s People’s Light is leading a cohort of six professional theatres in the area in expanding the availability of Relaxed Performances (RPs) in the region.

The six-member cohort – Delaware Theatre Company, McCarter Theatre Center, Montgomery Theater, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, People’s Light, and Theatre Horizon – will address accessibility and inclusivity needs by offering 10-12 Relaxed Performances over the next two years.

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A Relaxed Performance is a live theatre experience that is inclusive for everyone. These performances invite and encourage individuals with – but are not limited to – autism, ADD, ADHD, dementia, and sensory sensitivities to all take part in the joy of theatre in a shush-free zone.

Those on the autism spectrum, individuals with other neurological differences, and their families often do not attend theatre as the social cost of attending and possibly disrupting a public performance may be a barrier.

The cohort has received an Audience (R)Evolution Cohort Grant from the national organization for theatre, Theatre Communications Group, to support this initiative.

“Bringing Relaxed Performances to the Greater Philadelphia and Tri-State region through the TCG grant and theatre consortium demonstrates the power of collective action to change the public’s perception of diversity and inclusion, and ultimately to change society,” said project consultant Roger Ideishi, an Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at Temple University.

People’s Light draws on extensive staff experience, a long track record of working with individuals on the autism spectrum and with a range of cognitive differences through in-school residency programs, several years of rigorous research pertaining to relaxed performances, and five recent successful RPs.

People’s Light was awarded the 2015 Cultural Access Award from Art-Reach in Philadelphia for the company’s ongoing accessibility efforts, including the first production of a Relaxed Performance in the Philadelphia region.

In 2011, People’s Light commissioned a study of their residency work at the Pathway School to analyze how theatre activities affect the social skills of students with autism. The study, published in the Journal of Speech Pathology & Therapy in November 2015, concluded that students who participated in the theatre project displayed significant improvements in social behaviors.

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