NarroWay Productions, named one of the top three dinner theater attractions in the state by TripAdvisor, is partnering with Charlotte-based financial services firm Palmetto Premier Advisors to bring a sensory friendly Christmas performance for children with autism and other special needs – one of the first of its kind in the area – to Fort Mill.
The performance of “The Nativity Set,” a play about an old nativity set that comes to life, will include the reduction of loud or jarring sounds, eliminating flashing and strobe lights and a designated “Quiet Area” if a break is needed during the show. NarroWay will also be relaxing the house rules for the evening and guests are free to get up and move around as needed. There will be extra staff and volunteers on hand for the show and guests are welcome to bring their own seat cushions and comfort and support items.
The show is the first of its kind for the award-winning Christian theater. Palmetto approached NarroWay about putting on a special Christmas show for kids who may not be able to attend the theater’s typical Broadway-type dinner shows.
Financial Advisor Alyson Miller came up with the idea when thinking back to her time as a vocational rehab coach for people with special needs and said she realized that many children with special needs did not get to participate in the same social activities as typically developing children, often because of factors that could be modified to be more inclusive.
“Growing up in New York, I went to a lot of plays and the Rockettes Christmas was something we did as a family often. It was very special to me and marked some of my favorite Christmas memories,” Miller said, adding she thought how neat it would be to have a performance for families with special needs, “something to create special memories of their own.”
Over the past few months, Miller and Palmetto’s Executive Vice President, Matthew King, began meeting with Fort Mill area non-profits to learn more about how to create an evening tailored to the special needs community. Fort Mill’s Chit Chat Speech Therapy and non-profits Trusted Parents and Autism Speaks are a few the firm looked to for guidance. Chit Chat is supplying toys and games for the quiet zone – where children can relax if the environment becomes overly stimulating – and Autism Speaks is providing sensitivity training for the evening’s cast members and volunteers.
There are also a limited number of scholarships available for low-income families, thanks to Trusted Parents and Allen Tate Realtor Jeff Meister.
“Through working with families at Palmetto Premier Advisors Special Needs Division, we’ve seen the extra stresses these families deal with on a regular basis and we just wanted to do something to bring them joy,” King said. “The support was overwhelming, and we are so thankful to everyone who helped make this special performance a reality.”
NarroWay’s founders and directors Rebecca Martin and Yvonne “Birdie” Clark said they are happy to be able to host such an important community event.
“We are so excited to meet these special guests and share ‘The Nativity Set’ with them. This story is bigger than class, gender, special needs or anything else. This story brings people together,” Clark said.
“We all face different challenges,” Martin agreed.
“Sometimes we expect people to fit into our norm, but for this performance, we decided to change our norm and fit into their norm. So, we at NarroWay, are going out of our way to make this a wonderful time for our special guests and their family members.”
NarroWay has a rotating cast of over 400 actors and singers and a few are on the autism spectrum, said Lindsey Phillips, NarroWay’s cast manager and executive assistant.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to partner with some of these amazing local organizations,” Phillips said. “This is the first (sensory-friendly performance) but hopefully won’t be the last. We have other shows that we can adapt. I think this is just the beginning for us.”
Santa will be in the lobby to greet theater-goers and petting zoo will be available after the performance.
Kelly Lessard: firstname.lastname@example.org, @KellyLessardFMT
Want to go?
What: “The Nativity Set,” a sensory-friendly play
When: 6:30 p.m. December 13
Arrival Time: The theater lobby opens at 5:30 p.m. Santa will be in the lobby.
Run Time: Approximately 1 hour with brief intermissions.
Where: NarroWay Production, 3327 SC 51, Fort Mill 29715
Ticket Prices: Adult - $19
Seniors (55 and above) -$18
Teens - $17
Children (12 and under) - $12
Tickets for this special performance are available by phone only to ensure space for special needs families. Call 803-802-2300