Studio 360

“It Is Electrifying in There”

Kids on the spectrum—and their families—let it go at a special performance of Frozen.

Caissie Levy as Elsa in Frozen on Broadway.
Caissie Levy as Elsa in Frozen on Broadway.
Deen Van Meer

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In 2015, an autistic boy disrupted a performance of The King and I on Broadway, reacting loudly to a scene where a slave is whipped. He and his mother were asked to leave the theater.

After the performance, one of the actors from the ensemble posted a reaction to the incident on Facebook. He wrote, “When did we as theater people, performers and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?”

The Facebook post went viral.

Audience members of the autism-friendly performance of Frozen on Broadway.
Audience members of the autism-friendly performance of Frozen on Broadway.
Anita and Steve Shevett

What’s interesting is that Broadway was kind of responding to the King and I incident even before it happened. Theater leaders were working to create a safe environment for families with autistic children—a place to enjoy art free of discrimination—with special autism-friendly performances at musicals and plays.

“It just takes away all the stress of taking her to a typical show where, you know, she might yell a little too loud or clap a little too loud or want to jump up and down and it may not be acceptable,” says Carmen Mendez, whose daughter is autistic. “Here she can be herself.”

This podcast was produced for Studio 360 by Jeff Lunden.*

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Correction, Feb. 5, 2019: A previous version of this page misspelled the last name of the show producer. He is Jeff Lunden, not Jeff Lundun.