Bringing the Arts to Youth...
and Youth to the Arts!


Autism/Special Needs Friendly Performances

Each of us has been touched, in some way, by a friend or family member with special needs or diagnosed along the Autism spectrum. ArtsNashoba is honored to present a performances specifically adapted for this special population, their families, their educators and caregivers.  For more information about ArtsNashoba's Autism/Special Needs performances, please email ArtsNashoba President Bonnie Marchesani at

A preparatory video for those planning to attend our Autism/Special Needs Friendly performances.

What is a Special Needs/ Autism Friendly Performance?

Sensory Sensitive Performances are adapted for people of any age who have sensory input issues. “Reigning Cats and Dogs” will be performed as it is written, but we have reduced overly loud sounds, jarring noises and intense lighting changes.

What will this performance look like?

  • The lighting in the audience will never be completely dark –it will stay dimmed.

  • The volume for this performance will be lowered.

  • A quiet, relaxation area  (The Quiet Room/ Calming Space) will be made available to those who need to take a break from the show.

  • Additional trained ushers and volunteers will be made available to those with needs.

  • Audience members may leave their seats and move around as needed.

  • The audience is not expected to remain quiet during this performance –this will be a judgment-free zone.

There is no charge for tickets to this performance. There is no reserved seating - you may choose any seat that make you feel most comfortable. There is a special aisle to accommodate wheelchairs. Although we ask you to RSVP for tickets, that is to help us anticipate staffing and snacks –  “walk-ins” are always welcome!

On this website we also have several resources to view: A Character and Plot Synopsis; FAQs; a Social Story, and a Video to help you, and your loved, ones prepare for our show.

ArtsNashoba will provide a "Calming Space" equipped with mats, fidgets, toys and specially trained staff to ensure you, your family and friends have a comfortable and supportive experience at our theater.

The audience will be introduced to a few of the cast members before our show begins. Since some characters in a show can be ‘evil’ or ‘mean’, we want audience members to meet the actors who play these characters, and understand that it is all ‘just pretend’.

After the show, the cast will come into the Conant Art Gallery to meet the members of the audience! This is an exciting way to end our theater experience together – it happens only at our Sensory sensitive performances!


Q: Are the sensory sensitive performances only for those with sensory issues, or can anyone attend?
  The goal of these performances is to provide a place where families and caregivers of children and adults with sensory-input challenges are able enjoy a theater production together. Very young children, who also have difficulty sitting for long periods and remaining quiet, can also be sensitive to some sounds. We also welcome families with toddlers to join us at these performances. It is a judgment-free zone.


Anyone may attend, however, ArtsNashoba strongly encourages patrons to familiarize themselves with accepted audience behaviors and the show modifications so that a welcoming environment is provided for the entire audience.


Q: What is a Calming Space?

A: A Calming Space, also known as a Quiet Room, is a place removed from the theater where those audience members who become overstimulated  may retreat for a while. Our Calming Space is through the doors at the rear of the Richardson-Mees theater. We have floor quilts, a variety of activities, small toys and fidgets. This area will be staffed by our Therapist and other trained adults. We will also have an Emergency Medical Service volunteer available.


Q: Will it be noisy during the show?

A: It's very possible - expect there to be more than the usual ambient sounds from the audience.


Q: Will there be an Intermission?

A:  The performance lasts about 90 minutes. Roughly half way through the show there will be an intermission in the Conant Art Gallery/Lobby. There will be beverages and snacks. Bathrooms are nearby and will be clearly marked.


No Food or drink is allowed in the theater -  only the Conant Art Gallery.

Q: My attendee uses a wheelchair - What is the best access to the theater?
 The main entrance to the Conant Art Gallery &Theater is handicapped accessible. There is a small circular driveway in front of the building entrance with ramps in the sidewalk.  Although the main parking area is a few steps below this level, if you are driving a handicapped vehicle, there is a handicapped parking lot a few yards beyond the circular driveway. It is well marked.

Q: Are service animals welcome?
 We do accommodate service animals. Please let us know in advance, if possible.

Q: I have a question not addressed here. Who may I speak with at ArtsNashoba to get more information on the Special Needs/Autism Friendly services and accommodations?

A: You may contact ArtsNashoba President, Special Needs Events Coordinator, Bonnie Marchesani either by email, or by calling 978-448-5335

Special thanks to the Local Massachusetts Arts Councils of Ayer, Dunstable, Groton, and Shirley

ArtsNashoba Show Social Story

I am going to Lawrence Academy to watch a musical where actors perform and sing on a stage. The show is about an hour and a half long with a 15-minute intermission (everyone takes a break) in the middle. I will be in the audience. The audience of about 100 people will watch, listen, and clap.

When I arrive at Lawrence Academy, I will follow these steps in this order:

1. Go to the check-in desk and get a ticket for the show.
2. Walk through the door into the theater.  
3. Find an open seat that I will be comfortable sitting in.

During the performance, I will:
1. Be quiet and listen to the actors speaking and singing.
2. Watch the actors on stage. From the 2013 production of "Beauty and the Beast Jr."
3. Clap when a song in finished. But, if I don’t feel like clapping, I don’t have to.

If I need to take a break during the musical, I will:

  1. Tell an adult that I need a break.

  2. Go with the adult to the quiet room near the theater.

  3. Use fidgets, color, draw, drink water, and/or relax.

  4. Tell the adult when I am done with my break.

  5. Return to the theater quietly. 


A Synopsis of "Reigning Cats and Dogs"

In a faraway kingdom, Queen Gertrude and the King, live in a land over run by cats. The cats are noisy and make it impossible for the Royals to find peace and quiet.  Unbeknownst to the King and Queen, one of their three Royal Dogs wishes she were a cat! She is a friend to these felines and even sings in their Kit Kat Club.

Nearly all of the cats love to watch Chou Chou perform at the Kit Kat Club. All but Fluffball, that is. She has been the longtime star of the Club and has no use for a dog who parades around as a cat.

The King and Queen decide the only solution to this problem is to ban all cats from the kingdom. As the Royal Guards and Dogs enforce this edict, they discover Chou Chou  amongst the cats and her secret is revealed.

The King and Queen are confused and upset by this. They send Chou Chou to the West Wing of the castle until she is ready to ‘be a dog’.

The Royal Guards and Dogs do enforce this edict and drive the cats off the land. The King and Queen are delighted to have a cat-free kingdom!

Unfortunately, when you have no cats you do have lots of mice! Soon these domineering rodents had not only eaten everything in the kingdom, they tied up the dogs, Queen Gertrude, the King and then claimed the castle as their own!

When Chou Chou approaches the King and Queen with a suggestion to allow the cats back into the kingdom, they realize there is no other way out of this predicament - they agree to it. Chou Chou is able to convince her feline friends to return and the mice are eliminated!

An “Open Night for All” at the Kit Kat Club helps everyone in the kingdom discover how special, how valuable everyone is, whoever they are and whatever they look like!

The End


P.O. Box 716, Groton, MA  01450-9998
ArtsNashoba is a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization.

ArtsNashoba is supported in part by grants from local agencies of the towns of Ayer, Dunstable, Groton, Littleton, Pepperell, Shirley & Townsend, all supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.