Chicago Children's Theatre performing play for autistic kids

April 28, 2013

This coming Saturday at 11 a.m., "The Elephant and the Whale" will be performed for children with autism.

"We are limiting our audience so that they'll feel welcome and not judged," said Jacqueline Russell, the artistic director.

She was involved with the Red Kite Project, a theatrical experience for children with autism spectrum disorder. This is the first time in Chicago a performance will be autism-friendly.

"We will also sort of take down the volume for some of the show so that perhaps some of the kids who noise can be sensory overload, it will be much easier for them to enjoy the performance," Russell said. "They will also get a social story in advance and that will prepare them for what they are going to see."

"We'll also have a quiet room for them downstairs," she said.

"The Elephant and the Whale" is the story of friendship conquering all obstacles with a beloved circus elephant named Elisa and a homesick whale that takes place in 1919.

"The great thing about the show is that it's all visual spectacle. It's incredibly beautiful and colorful, and it's told through three different types of puppetry," said Russell.

Performer Becky Poole is the voice of the whale. She was also part of the Red Kite Project. She encourages families to bring their children with autism to the adapted performance.

"You don't need to be afraid to bring someone who might make noise and act out different ways during the performance because everybody knows what's going on," Poole said.

Since this will be the first time for Chicago children's Theatre, Russell hopes more will follow.

"What I would like to do, in every season, is find that show that we think would be the perfect show to share with that audience," said Russell.

Autism-friendly "The Elephant and the Whale" is next Saturday, May 4 at 11 a.m. at the Chicago Children's Theatre. The location is the Ruth Page Center for the arts 1016 N. Dearborn in Chicago.

Parents can register for tickets on a special web page that also offers discount on tickets. For more information:

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