BerenstainsIt’s a special performance keyed to young audiences with Autism Spectrum Disorder when the Count Basie Theatre hosts the Berenstain Bears Thursday afternoon. 

It’s being described by the Count Basie Theatre as “sensory-friendly… a judgment-free, comfortable environment for families who would otherwise be reluctant to attend a live theatre performance.”

It’s a very special Thursday matinee of The Berenstain Bears LIVE! in Family Matters the Musical — and when the touring production based on the beloved children’s book characters of Stan and Jan Berenstain rolls into Red Bank on Thursday, it will represent the first in a projected series of events benefitting POAC Autism Services in its mission to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

“It is the responsibility of the Basie to provide this experience for parents and children alike, in a calm and mindful manner so important to those affected with ASD,” said Basie CEO and president Adam Philipson. “This idea is heartfelt to the entire Basie team, and that we can also raise awareness and money for POAC is an honor.”

Two dollars from each ticket sold will be donated to POAC Autism Services, a nonprofit organization that provides training, services, outreach and support for thousands of people throughout New Jersey and across the country, the majority furnished free of charge. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report indicating that New Jersey showed the highest rates of ASD occurrence in the nation, with 1 in 45 on the spectrum, including 1 in 28 boys. According to the CDC, approximately two percent or more of New Jersey children from birth to 21 years of age currently experience Autism Spectrum Disorder.

With input from POAC and other performing arts organizations, the Basie will transform itself into a “sensory-friendly” environment for this performance, with patrons and their children permitted to bring in favorite snacks, iPads and other objects of affinity. House lights will remain bright enough for children to know where they are, and sudden or shrill sounds will be eliminated from the performance.

A “quiet room” with “fidgets” and coloring pages with crayons will be available to families, while the Basie performance staff — ushers, security and the like — will receive training and guidance from POAC prior to the performance. A downloadable PDF and video for parents will be made available, detailing the sights and procedures guests will experience as they visit the Basie for this unique performance.

Based on three of the more than 300 titles in the long-running Berenstain Bears series — The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, and The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble at School — the Family Matters show employs a cast of live actors, with colorful costumes and scenery evoking the Bear Country of the Berenstains’ books, in a show that finds young audiences “learning about the importance of honesty, health, and safety. In the end, it becomes clear to each of the Berenstain Bears that what truly matters is family.”

Take it here for tickets ($20, $25) to the 4:30 pm matinee — and here to download a PDF guide on what to expect at Thursday’s special performance.