Lincoln Center’s ‘Big Umbrella Outdoors’ welcomes young audiences on the autism spectrum

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts’ commitment to audiences with disabilities continues, experimenting with multi-sensory work in an outdoor setting and creating spaces that are socially inclusive and welcoming. Coming the weekend of September 17-19, as part of its Restart Stages initiative, is Big Umbrella Outdoors – a three-day ticketed festival offering performances of music, theater, art, and dance for children on the autism spectrum and their families. The 2021 programming is an extension of the 2018 Big Umbrella Festival – an international endeavor, and the first of its kind, to offer performances across NYC and to gather arts professionals from across the globe to share the best practices for serving this specific audience and its unique requirements.

Families are invited to experience Big Umbrella Outdoors in a two-hour window that begins and ends with a live performance and allows time in between to choose which of several interactive installations to explore (among them, a dance workshop or self-guided visual art activity). Festival highlights include performances of Songs and Stories from the Spectrum by the neurodiverse theater company E.P.I.C. Players and Écoute pour voir by Danse Carpe Diem/Emmanuel Jouthe and Ballet For All Kids; Squonk’s Big Hands for a Big Umbrella – a multi-sensory immersive performance that invites free expression; a Silent Disco for teens and young adults, made accessible through the groundbreaking technology of Music: Not Impossible (an applied Vibrotextile™ technology that allows users to experience the rich nuances of music, using the skin as a canvas); a sonic soundscape Swingset Drumkit that encourages participants to build rhythmic sounds through a swinging sensory sculpture; and the interactive installation OrchidsPlayscape of richly textured knitted textiles.

E.P.I.C. Players. Photo courtesy of the company.

All events are located on accessible routes and include accessible entrances, restrooms, and seating. Assistive listening devices with headsets and neck loops are available, as are noise-reducing headphones and fidgets at all event spaces. There are also chill-out spaces with flexible seating, shade, and quiet. Masks are required for all participants over two years old, staff, and artists, unless unable to wear masks due to a medical condition. Masks may be removed when actively eating or drinking within socially distanced pod seating. Proof of full vaccination or negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event is required for all guests over the age of twelve.

Tickets sales are currently at capacity; to join the virtual stand-by line, click here. Ticket holders will receive digital social narratives in advance; if any additional accommodations are required, you can call (212) 875-5375 or email access@lincolncenter.org.

In addition to the live on-site events, audiences are offered access to the US premiere of Sun Runners – a free at-home action-packed intergalactic virtual audio adventure for kids by Audioplay & Windmill Theatre Company, available on demand September 13, 10 am, through September 26. To register, go online; to watch a preview, click on the arrow below:

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