Count Basie Theatre recognizes National Autism Awareness Month with sensory-friendly performances and Arts Academy workshop


(RED BANK | MARCH 28) As we approach April and Autism Awareness Month, the Count Basie Theatre is proud to present three mainstage, sensory-friendly programs and a new Basie Performing Arts Academy workshop geared specifically for parents, caregivers and children in the autism community.

Onstage, the Basie will present three sensory-friendly performances: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: The Musical on April 12th at 4pm; New Orleans Mardi Gras-style jazz band Jazzy Ash & The Leaping Lizards on April 23rd at 4pm; and the Enchantment Theatre Company’s presentation of the timeless children’s classic My Father’s Dragon on May 3rd at 4pm.

Tickets for each of these shows are on sale now at, 732.842.9000 and the Basie box office.

The Basie’s sensory-friendly shows are held in a judgement-free environment fostered with help and training by New Jersey’s POAC Autism Services, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization which provides training, services, outreach and support for organizations and communities interested in serving the autism community.

Patrons and their children will be permitted to bring in favorite snacks, iPads and other objects of affinity, while house lights will remain bright enough for children to know where they are, and sudden or shrill sounds will be eliminated from the performance. A quiet room with “fidgets” and coloring pages / crayons will be available to families, and the Basie performance staff – ushers, security and others – have received training and guidance from POAC.

In addition, experience guides and “Meet Your Seat” opportunities will be available in advance of each performance, allowing families to familiarize themselves with the Basie and their chosen program.

“POAC is thrilled to have an ongoing relationship with the Basie,” said Simone Tellini, Director of Program Development, POAC Autism Services. “We can’t overemphasize the importance of having community activities that welcome children with autism and other special needs. So many families are hesitant to bring their children to the theater for a variety of reasons — including concerns about how they will react to the sights and sounds. By providing these sensory friendly performances, the Count Basie Theatre is giving the gift of theater to so many families who would not otherwise have felt comfortable participating.”

$1 from every ticket sold to Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards and My Father’s Dragon will be donated to POAC, as well as hundreds of tickets for families served by the organization.

On April 13, the Count Basie Theatre Performing Arts Academy will present a workshop entitled “Music and Children with Autism – Guidance for Parents and Caregivers.” Designed to offer insight into ways the arts can assist adults in connecting with children on the spectrum, the workshop will feature a corresponding creativity session for children aged 4+ to make it easier for parents to attend.

“I am working with the Count Basie Theatre to show parents and caregivers the power of the arts in the lives of children who live on the spectrum,” said Dr. Ryan Hourigan, workshop instructor and Director of the School of Music at Ball State University. “Parents at any experience level can bring music, theatre, and dance into the home to enrich the lives of the whole family”

Hourigan’s book, Teaching Music to Students with Special Needs: A Label-free Approach, is currently in its fifth printing. A second tome, Teaching Music to Students with Autism, was released in 2013.

“It’s a vital part of the Basie’s mission that the arts are universal and accessible to all,” said Adam Philipson, President and CEO, Count Basie Theatre. “By offering sensory-friendly programming, working with our friends at POAC and adding workshops for the autism community through our Performing Arts Academy, we hope to brighten the lives of families who may otherwise shy away from public performances or gatherings.”

The Count Basie Theatre’s Sensory Friendly programming series is made possible by the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, on-air support from our friends at Townsquare Media and 94.3 The Point and the generous individuals who supported the Basie’s 2016 Giving Tuesday Campaign.