Autism Friendly Performance

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Reserved exclusively for families with children on the autism spectrum including pre-show Social Story, quiet room, & judgment-free audience  

Discounted Tickets:  $31 for adults; $21 for children 16 and under.  (Be sure to select “Autism Friendly” discount from the drop down ticketing menu

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The Saturday, May 4, at 11 am performance of The Elephant and The Whale will be Chicago’s first “Autism-Friendly” live theater performance and is reserved exclusively for Chicago-area families with children on the autism spectrum.

“We are excited to build on our five years of experience with The Red Kite Project, our ongoing series of carefully crafted theatrical experiences and summer theater camps for children with autism, and take our barrier-free live theater model to our first mainstage production with The Elephant and The Whale,” said Jacqueline Russell, Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre. “Perhaps most important to families with children on the autism spectrum, this one performance of The Elephant and The Whale will be ‘judgment-free.’ Nobody will need worry if a child gets loud or active, because the entire 235-seat theater is reserved exclusively for families with kids with autism.”


Before attending the performance, parents will receive a “Social Story” – a brief preview of the play that also walks children through the experience of attending live theater to help minimize pre-show anxiety. Upon arrival, all audience members will be greeted by specially trained, caring Chicago Children’s Theatre staff and artists whose mission will be to make each child feel comfortable, safe and welcome.  The production’s highly visual nature will surely delight the audience, although the performance will be modulated down a bit in terms of sound and light, and a quiet room will be nearby just in case.

Call Chicago Children’s Theatre at (872) 222-9555 with questions about the May 4th Autism-Friendly performance of The Elephant and The Whale.


With this first-ever Autism-Friendly performance, Chicago Children’s Theatre is introducing to Chicago a trend toward barrier-free theater for families with children on the autism spectrum recently introduced on Broadway by Theater Development Fund with The Lion King and Mary Poppins. “Theatre Development Fund is honored to be an inspiration to the theatre community of Chicago as they develop their own programs for families affected by autism,” said Victoria Bailey, TDF’s Executive Director.  “We have found through our Autism Theatre Initiative that there is a large audience of families in need of this service. Watching families experience live theatre together for the first time in an environment that is safe and supportive is a truly emotional and gratifying experience.”

Deb Clapp, Executive Director, League of Chicago Theatres, agreed “The League is proud to partner with Chicago Children’s Theatre on this important initiative.  We believe that every Chicagoan should have access to high quality theatre, and are delighted to welcome these families.”

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s Autism-Friendly performance of The Elephant and The Whale is supported by a grant from The Field Foundation, and is presented in partnership with the League of Chicago Theatres.


More about The Elephant and The Whale


The Elephant and The Whale is an all-new family fable featuring sea voyages, wild mechanical objects, circus songs, panoramic paintings, exquisite shadow puppets and an innovative sound design. A spectacle in miniature, The Elephant and The Whale is an epic tale that invites audiences of all ages to discover the majesty of the largest animals on our planet, and a story of friendship conquering all obstacles. The year is 1919, and it’s the end of an era for a beloved circus elephant named Ella. When a nefarious new owner takes over the homegrown Hoogebeck Family show, Ella the star elephant discovers an unexpected new animal in the circus: a landlocked and homesick baby whale. What happens next is a unique story of friendship and adventure spanning species, rivers, railroads and nautical miles.

This must-see family show is conceived by Frank Maugeri, with an original story by Seth Bockley, Leslie Buxbaum Danzig, and Frank Maugeri, and script and songs by Seth Bockley with composer Kevin O’Donnell. The Elephant and The Whale is directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig (of 500 Clown) and Maugeri, and stars Kurt BrockerDavid CatlinKasey Foster and Becky Poole. Together, the four-person cast will weave this fantastical tale while cranking audio devices, pedaling panoramic painting apparatuses, manipulating shadow puppet sequences and singing folk-inflected songs. A nickelodeon-like, three-horned gramophone machine, coin operated by the performers, has been specially designed to play the music for the production. After each performance, audiences will have the chance to interact with the artists and get an up close look at the set, props, puppets and mechanical apparatuses.