The close quarters, bright lights and loud sounds of a movie theater can make it the last place some individuals with autism would want to be. But for one afternoon at least, The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington is trying to change that.
A recent screening of a stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, from London’s National Theatre, gave Beryl Jolly, the director of the Mahaiwe theatre, the idea to host an autism-friendly showing of the broadcast.
Though the book doesn’t use the term, many fans see The Curious Incident as the inspiring story of a young man with an autism spectrum disorder. Seeking to solve the mystery surrounding the death of a neighbor’s dog, the fifteen year-old protagonist succeeds despite at times feeling overwhelmed from the overload of unfamiliar sights and sounds he encounters on his journey. Part of the idea of the showing, Jolly says, is to connect people with autism-related organizations and services they may not know about.
“To share resources, to share stories—for people to meet each other and realize what services and resources are available in this area. Just by having this kind of dialogue, people can meet each other who may not know each other.”
A moderated discussion and q&a with autism experts will follow the screening.
Michael Wilcox, a member of the state’s commission on autism, has a very personal connection to The Curious Incident.
“This is the book that led me to understand that I’m autistic. I didn’t know that before I read this book. So this performance has special meaning for me.”
He’s advised the Mahaiwe on ways to make the showing more comfortable. Jolly says she’s looking at things like adjusting the volume and lighting in the theater. The underlying point is: individuals with autism, and their friends and family, should feel welcome.
“I’m getting some recommendations form autistic people and from clinicians as to how to make the space feel comfortable with light and with sound and with space between audience members.”
The broadcast will be Saturday at 2p.m.