Theatre Orangeville to be accessible to any and all

October 21, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

With the first play, Come Down from Up River, of the 2019/20 season at Theatre Orangeville’s opening tonight (October 17), the issue of accessibility is being given ever more attention.

“We want to open the door to people who want to come but feel they couldn’t for whatever reason,” Artistic Director David Nairn told the Citizen. “We want to do all we can to make it as accessible as possible.”

This is an add-on performance for all the plays and the shows that changes the format of the theatre to accommodate the needs of the folk who don’t normally attend a regular show. It’s a long list from the neuro- or developmentally challenged to the those with anxiety, claustrophobia, afraid of the dark or the crowds.

Nursing mothers can bring their babies; even though this is not a play “particularly geared for small children”, if mom can’t leave them at home with someone, they can come and sit in the lobby upstairs with their “colouring books” where there will be adults to support them. The doors are open. If the mother needs to nurse and is uncomfortable doing so in the theatre, there are quiet places where she can go and come back when baby is happy.

For the lights are partly up and the doors are open; moving around is okay and leaving and coming back are fine. There is a quiet room up and down stairs for anyone that needs a break from the action and the laughter.

The cost of the tickets is reduced and there is now a subscription rate for Relaxed Performances. 

Although this is looked upon as an innovation at Theatre Orangeville, Mr. Nairn observed, “It occurred to me we’ve been doing it for years, by the very nature of the CLD [Community Living Dufferin]  shows. We started doing this specifically with the Christmas shows two years ago but we were asked by the very people who come to the Relaxed Performances to extend them because they wanted to see all the shows.

“One of them also asked, ‘do I can the discount too?’ So, only here at Theatre Orangeville do we actually offer subscriptions for Relaxed Performances.”

These performances are hugely popular in the U.K., where the idea for them originated and they are increasingly being offered at theatres across Canada.

It’s a different for the cast as well. Firstly, that famous “fourth wall” is broken by the house lights being up throughout the show. This means, that, whereas with the lights down, actors can barely see anyone past the first row; during the relaxed performances, they can see the whole audience. They also have to ignore the possible and probable disruptions in the audience by people talking and moving around and whatever else might happen.

Mr. Nairn was really clear about the attitudes of the actors: “The cast are open to this and excited to do this added show. We don’t normally do Wednesday evening performances and this one opens early at 7:00 p.m.

“It’s just another show, only the conditions are different. But if you’ve prepared, it doesn’t matter. It’ll be a very different experience because normally, you can’t see the audience. So, it’ll be an exhilarating experience for them. All of them understand and support 100% why we’re doing this. And that doesn’t strike me as odd in the least. They’re always very inclusive. Normal or abnormal doesn’t enter into our creative lexicon.”

The disruptions, such as they may or may not be, will not disrupt the play. 

“If you’re focussed, into your character, all you’re thinking about is what you’re doing.”

Come Down from Up River, this play opening this evening and running until November 3, promises to be a great couple of hours at the theatre.

Said Mr. Nairn of the rehearsals, “They’re in such great shape with this play. We’re really in a great place. Everyone is going to have a wonderful time.”

It should be noted that the Relaxed Performance is scheduled during this show on Wednesday, October 30 at 7:00 p.m. and is also open to anyone who wants to come.

For tickets and more information, drop into the Box Office at 87 Broadway and the Information Centre on Buena Vista Drive at Highway 10; call 519-942-3423 or go online at


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