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Sensory-friendly family shows return to The Grand in January

The exterior of the Grand Opera House in Wilmington
The Grand Opera House
The exterior of the Grand Opera House in Wilmington

The Grand Opera House in Wilmington resumes its sensory-friendly family shows next year.

The Grand plans to host three sensory-friendly family shows in 2023, helping open up the theater experience to audiences with autism, mental health issues or attention or intellectual disabilities.

The sensory-friendly shows welcome children and adults of all ages and abilities.

“We started the program in 2018; those were our first couple of performances," said Pamelyn Manocchio, The Grand’s executive director. "But it took a year or so of planning prior to that. When I first learned about these, I was hearing about them from some of the artists that we worked with, particularly Leah and Jeff Boyer who performed our “Bubble Trouble” and “Big Bubble Bonanza” - all of our bubble shows here.”  

Manocchio says the Boyers explained to her the definition of sensory-friendly shows, which offer special accommodations to help reduce stress and anxiety, such as limited crowd sizes and an open seating arrangement, allowing people to sit where they are most comfortable.

She says that the traditional theater experience can be challenging for many people.

The Grand
Dan +Claudia Zanes

"What we do is, we have some accommodations including house lights; we keep the house lights on at a low level so it’s not so dark in the theater. We make sure that the performers that are coming in - the shows that they’re seeing - don’t have any loud, jarring noises that are going to surprise them," she said. "And we allow them to choose their own seats and then to move around during the performance."   

Manocchio notes that these shows also encourage people to stand up and dance in the aisles. Patrons can also leave any time to go out in the lobby to a quiet space.

The first sensory-friendly show next year is a performance by the duo Dan and Claudia Zanes Sunday, January 22, 2023.

The full schedule can be found here.

Delaware Public Media' s arts coverage is made possible, in part, by support from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.