CSz Richmond to debut sensory-friendly comedy show
CSz Richmond debuts sensory-friendly comedy show
Richmond Times-Dispatch - 11/7/2017
When: Saturday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m.
Where: CSz Richmond, 8906-H W. Broad St., Richmond
Tickets: $10 per person (refunds given up to showtime)
Details: Visit www.cszrichmond.com
A good belly laugh, the kind that starts deep in the gut and leaves you in stitches, does every body good. But when the world outside is challenging to comprehend or understand for those with autism and other sensory disabilities, opportunities can be limited when it comes to enjoying comedic experiences with friends and family.
For the first time in its 21-year history, CSz Richmond, a sports-themed comedy improv club in Henrico County, will host a sensory-friendly comedy show on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Acknowledging that a traditional comedy club atmosphere can be challenging for some people, officials with CSz Richmond, which is operated by the nonprofit Yes Balloon, are altering the dynamics of their theater space.
Stage lighting will be raised and positioned farther away from audience members so that it's dimmer ; more space will be added between seats, which effectively keeps the audience smaller; and the programming will encourage patrons to get up and move around during the one-hour show.
Staff members will use light sticks as visual warning signs to indicate when the sound will increase, such as during times of applause, and social stories will be provided ahead of time. Social stories are tools used by those who work with autistic children and adults. They're written and photographic guides that can be reviewed ahead of time to familiarize individuals with events and happenings. For the CSz Richmond show, they include everything from pictures of the theater and its actors to information about the program format and schedule.
Additionally, volunteers will help as needed, and if patrons buy tickets but need to cancel before showtime, CSz Richmond will offer refunds.
Rachel Garmon, CSz Richmond access coordinator, works with autistic people through improvisation. She said the challenges they face socially can make it difficult for families or parents of autistic children to do things together in public.
"It's a huge passion of mine," she said, referring to working with those individuals in ways that strengthen them and their families. "Going out is a hard thing (and) we want to ... create a safe environment where they can be a family."
The theater will have several quiet spaces where people can go if they're feeling overwhelmed. She said the volunteers are staff members who work with or have loved ones who have sensory issues. Other than eliminating the intermission, the show will be the same as usual, she said. CSz Richmond - one location within the national CSz franchise - features two improv teams that face-off against each other with audience participation. There's also a referee.
David Gau, artistic director and president of the Yes Balloon's board of directors, said ....
"We're just starting," Garmon said, adding that the club is planning another sensory-friendly show in March. "We're working to build the trust of this community."