U-M architect, MSU playwright create a sensory theater experience for children with autism

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ANN ARBOR, MI (WILX) -- As Ara and Jack walk into Michigan State University's Arena Theater, they're greeted by a friendly frog, a dancing pelican and a sunny ukulele tune.

Ara and Jack are both 10 years old and are the first children to experience "POND" written and directed by Dionne O'Dell, a faculty member in MSU's theater department.

O'Dell has worked in children's theater for more than 30 years and has spent the last four years focusing on creating productions like "POND," which provide participatory theater experiences to children on the autism spectrum.

"Many companies are starting to offer sensory-friendly performances that are more relaxed, with adjusted lighting and sound, along with actors and ushers that are trained in dealing with neurodiverse audiences" O'Dell said. "And while there have been many productions that have been adapted to be sensory-friendly, my goal is to create a play specifically for this audience from the ground up."

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