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Sensory-Friendly Performances

Wharton Center, in collaboration with a variety of MSU and community partners, has created an initiative to provide a supportive and welcoming environment that will make live theatre accessible to those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental disabilities, sensory processing disorder, and other sensory-sensitive people and their families. 

What are Sensory-Friendly Performances?

At Sensory-Friendly Performances, accommodations will include:

  • Lower sound and light levels; all strobe light effects removed.
  • House lights on at a low level throughout the performance.
  • Audience members are welcome to stand, move around, and enter and leave the theatre as needed.
  • An Activities Area with crafts and activities for engagement.
  • Designated quiet and calm spaces.
  • Autism specialists and trained volunteers on hand.
  • Sensory supports available (fidgets, earplugs).
  • A Social Narrative that portrays the theatre-going experience with pictures and text.
  • A Character Guide with pictures identifying each character in the show.
  • Audience members are welcome to bring their own manipulatives, seat cushions, comfort objects, headphones, electronics, special snacks, and other support items to the show.
  • ASL interpretation is available. If you would like to be provided with this service, please notify the Ticket Office when you purchase your ticket.

Helpful Documents

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy

Sunday, March 26, 2023 at 2pm
Cobb Great Hall

Master musicians—and husband-wife duo—Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy command the stage with raw energy and passion that combines their traditional Celtic heritage with a new flair. You'll be treated to the foot-tapping rave-ups, ballads, and step dancing that have brought audiences to their feet on around the world. These exceptional performers always give their audience an unforgettable musical experience by combining their magnificent individual talents. By the end of the evening, you will have been enriched by the music, stories, and warmth of the Cape Breton lifestyle. And there may be some special appearances by their incredibly talented kids as well!

Preview on YouTube

Cross That River

April 29, 2023 at 3:00pm
Pasant Theatre

“This sure ain’t a tale you gonna read about in them dime-store Westerns.”—Allan Harris

The unsettled West of the 1860s provides a new life and new dreams for Blue, a freedom seeking enslaved person who escapes to Texas to become one of America’s first Cowboys. This moving musical and theatrical event spotlights a significant moment in American history, when Black Cowboys lived, helped settle the West and shape the country.

Integrating fiction with historical fact, and each song represents a different page in this complicated chapter of American History. Award-winning musician Allan Harris (hailed as “my favorite singer” by Tony Bennett), along with fellow musicians tell the untold story of the Black West, empowering and inspiring with a story of perseverance, hope, and freedom.

The Illuminate series features two stories that look at the African American experience in different moments of time, examining race and Black history in America.

Preview on YouTube

Helpful Links

Why are Sensory-Friendly Performances important?

An estimated one of every six children is affected by neurological conditions that require treatment, and the incidence appears to be increasing. For example, a new case of autism is diagnosed in the United States every 15 minutes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in every 59 children in the United States has autism, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) or another autism spectrum disorder. These disorders occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

There is a clear need for meaningful and appropriate social activities tailored for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. People with sensory, social, and learning disabilities have the capacity to participate in a range of community activities when provided the opportunity and appropriate supports. When we provide opportunities for individuals with these disabilities to engage, the benefits include greater community, civic, and social participation for everyone. Sensory-Friendly Performances are, perhaps, a stepping stone to becoming a totally inclusive community gathering place.


Sensory-Friendly Performances are sponsored by Delta Dental of Michigan with additional support from Peckham, Inc.

Delta Dental
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