Art for Autism: theater company produces shows for kids with developmental differences

Art for Autism: theater company produces shows for kids with developmental differences

November 23, 2015

New York City parents often share the gift of Broadway with their children. I personally remember attending the Radio City Christmas Spectacular to see the Rockettes’ kick line with my mother when I was nine years old. However, traditional theater performances are often not accessible to all children – particularly those on the autism spectrum. 

“Children with developmental differences like autism oftentimes don’t get to enjoy theater because the traditional model doesn’t account for their needs,” said Lindsay Amer, co-artistic director at Bluelaces Theater Company. “Giving these kids the opportunity to enjoy the arts is what inspired the founding of Bluelaces.”

Bluelaces Theater Company is New York City’s only nonprofit theater organization dedicated solely to creating highly interactive, sensory-based theatrical experiences for people of all ages living with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental differences, the company explained in a press release.

“This type of theater is so new and so young,” said Co-Artisitc Director Alison Mahoney. “We’re the first company in New York City to be doing only this type of work – solely devising for this population instead of adapting existing shows.”

Mahoney is directing Bluelaces’ first New York City production set to launch in May 2016. She has worked in this specifically focused theater before, having participated in Trusty Sidekick Theater Company’s “Up and Away”, an immersive theater production commissioned by Lincoln Center Education earlier this year.

[I] had the privilege of attending all 40 performances during the Up and Away run,” said Mahoney, “which gave me the chance to see hundreds of young people on the autism spectrum interact with theater. I left the Up and Away process with a much stronger understanding of what it means to create art for these audiences.”

Unlike traditional theater productions, Bluelaces keeps its audience sizes small and offers “Adventure Guides” who pair with each audience member to ensure each an individually tailored experience.

“Every one of the students was caught up in the magic of the room,” said teacher Marjorie Hillocks when speaking about the Spring 2014 show that Mahoney directed while attending Northwestern University, where Bluelaces was originally founded.

“Some [of the students] had never smiled so much before,” Hillocks continued. “And some didn’t want to leave. The adults were equally entranced. There were few dry eyes in the house as they watched the joy in their students’ eyes and listened to the laughter that filled the room. It was a remarkable experience,” she said. “One that will not be forgotten.”

Bluelaces will host its inaugural New York City show at Speyer Hall May 21 – 29 in partnership with educational and social services nonprofit provider University Settlement. Readers can learn more at and donate to support the company’s fundraising campaign.

“We are one small stepping stone in what I hope is going to be a much larger journey throughout the entire theatre community,” said Mahoney.



Samantha Diliberti