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Theater Rejects Calls To Segregate Audiences
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 26, 2006

DERBY, ENGLAND--Derby Playhouse is defending its decision not to tell the public that people with disabilities might attend performances, despite complaints from a theater critic that one group made noises during a recent show.

After a performance of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Into the Woods", critic Mark Shenton wrote that "a group of severely mentally disabled people were admitted in wheelchairs, and their chorus of involuntary yelps and moans kept punctuating the action".

Shenton went on to suggest that, when management knows people with disabilities might be in the audience, he and other theatre-goers should be notified in advance in order to "make a choice for ourselves whether we wanted to be there."

Karen Hebden, chief executive of Derby Playhouse, told The Guardian that the group in question was part of a program that encourages people to attend who might not have experienced live theatre before.

"Any calls to segregate audiences will be rejected as they are both unworkable and unfair," Hebden said.

"Do we then have a separate performance for the people who rustle their sweets? Or cough? Or don't fit into the seats because they are a little overweight?" she asked the BBC.

"It's nonsense."

Michael Brookstein, from People First, told the BBC, "It's vital that people with disabilities can experience theatre, both performing and watching, in a mixed environment, so they can show what they can do and what they can get out of it."

"Nightmare Theatrical Distractions…" by Mark Shenton (The Stage)
"Row over disabled audience noise" (BBC News)


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