MILLBURN, NJ - Paper Mill Playhouse (Mark S. Hoebee-Producing Artistic Director, Todd Schmidt-Managing Director), in partnership with Pushcart Players, New Jersey’s premiere producer of theater for young audiences, will present a special engagement of the live musical STONE SOUP AND OTHER STORIES on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 10:00 am. Designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum, or with other developmental disabilities, and planned in cooperation with Autism New Jersey and The Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University, the theater environment will be altered for this performance, providing a sensory-friendly, comfortable and judgment-free space that is welcoming for all families. At this unique presentation, theater lights will remain up, sound volume will be lowered and consistent and children will be free to talk and leave their seat under parental supervision. The show will run about one hour with an intermission.

STONE SOUP AND OTHER STORIES is a charming, well-seasoned blend of select folk tales from around the world that are dynamic, participatory and filled with zesty entertainment! Reserved tickets are $12-$15. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973-376-4343, or at the Paper Mill Box Office on Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at Paper Mill Playhouse’s website: www.papermill.org. Paper Mill Playhouse gift cards, available in any denomination, can be purchased at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express accepted.

Additionally, Paper Mill Playhouse will host a free Open House titled “Meet Your Seat!” on Friday, June 10, 2011 from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. This is an opportunity for children who are new to theater experiences to visit the theater space before the show. No reservations are required for the Open House. Resource material will be available including a sequence book, study guide and sing-along prep video. These items may be downloaded or viewed on www.PaperMill.org.

“For over twenty-five years Paper Mill Playhouse has been a national leader in accessibility and is committed to making the live theater experience available to everyone so that they may attend with dignity and independence,” says Paper Mill Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director, Mark S. Hoebee. “This special performance enhances our vision that live theater should be accessible to every human being.”

Linda Meyer, Executive Director of Autism New Jersey consulted with Paper Mill staff to design an event that is inclusive and comfortable for all families. “Autism New Jersey is proud to support Paper Mill Playhouse's project, Theater for Everyone.  Families, all families, will truly be welcomed at this performance. During Autism New Jersey's Listening Tour, we heard parents envision a future where their families are accepted and valued in their local community.  Through careful planning and thoughtful accommodations, Paper Mill Playhouse has provided an opportunity for families to share in what many other families take for granted - a family theater experience. The executives and staff of Paper Mill Playhouse are to be commended for identifying a need and diligently and compassionately putting into place all of the essential components to ensure that everyone will enjoy their experience.  Hopefully, this will be the first of many productions.”

Elena Graziosi, Information Coordinator for Autism New Jersey agrees, “I am looking forward to bringing my daughter Katia to see Pushcart Players perform Stone Soup and Other Stories. We have seen them perform before and they were very warm and friendly with the children.  Paper Mill Playhouse is offering an excellent opportunity for children like mine who otherwise might not be able to enjoy a theater environment, as darkness and loud or unexpected sounds can be frightening.  The accommodations and preparatory materials being provided truly make a difference.” 

Also advising Paper Mill Playhouse is Maria Arnold, Director of Educational Services of the Douglass Developmental Disabilites Center at Rutgers University. She states, "Paper Mill Playhouse, a leader in the theater industry in New Jersey, has actively embraced the movement to provide opportunities for all people to enjoy live theater.  The Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center is proud to be a part of this effort to provide specially designed presentations that will provide a welcoming environment for families having children with special needs, particularly those having autism spectrum disorders."

For this performance Pushcart Players are taking steps to condense and adapt the show’s script to ensure it is literal and free of dramatic devises like innuendo and sarcasm, which are not readily understood by some children with autism or other developmental disabilities. They are also taking steps to equalize the dynamics of the performances to avoid sudden or jarring changes in sound levels. Pushcart Players Managing Director, Stephanie Carr, said, "We were thrilled when Paper Mill first approached us about starting a discussion about this type of event.  It has always been a part of Pushcart Players' Arts Access Plan to foster an inclusionary attitude in reaching schools and students with developmental, learning and other disabilities by adapting or modifying our programs and related materials to suit the needs of a particular community.  This partnership offers a terrific opportunity to expand on this objective by giving kids and their families access to the arts in a way that would not otherwise be available to them.”

Paper Mill Playhouse received the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ 2009 Excellence in Accessibility Leadership Award, the 2009 Arts Presenters/MetLife Award for Innovation and Excellence in Access, and the Cultural Access Network of New Jersey’s 2010 Sustainer Award. These awards recognized the theater's innovative access programming, its commitment to accessibility, and its example to other arts organizations in New Jersey and across the country. Sensory-friendly performances join Paper Mill Playhouse’s full menu of Access services, which include a barrier-free facility; integrated wheelchair seating; infrared listening devices; sign language interpreted, open-captioned, and audio-described performances; large print and Braille programs; and sensory seminars for patrons with vision loss to have the opportunity to touch props and costumes, have a guided tour of the set and hear the actors’ voices before the performance.

PAPER MILL PLAYHOUSE, a not-for-profit arts organization, is one of the country’s leading regional theaters.  Paper Mill Playhouse programs are made possible, in part, by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, A Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Additional support is provided by the generous contributions of numerous corporations, foundations, and individuals.  Paper Mill Playhouse is a member of Theatre Communications Group, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the Council of Stock Theatres, and the New Jersey Theatre Alliance.