A Welcoming Place for All!
by the Straz Center

Seventeen-year-old Donovan Dix has autism. When he told his mother Tia he wanted to see Motown the Musical at the Straz Center, she wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, “the theater” historically belonged to people who could sit still and be silent for a few hours. How was this going to work?

Fortunately, The Straz has always been a welcoming place for all. At the point in Motown where Diana Ross asks someone to come onstage with her, no one volunteered. So, Tia shot up her hand, pointing at Donovan. At his very first Broadway performance, Donovan Dix found himself onstage singing “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” with the star of the show.

Tia remembers the moment vividly. “I thought, ‘what did I get him in, he’s gone up onstage!’ I stood up with him and guided him from the side. When it was over, he got a standing ovation. After the show we met some of the cast, and the actress found us. She said, ‘I want you to know we’ve been on tour so many months, and that’s the first time we ever got a standing ovation.’”

Donovan was hooked on Broadway.

From Motown on, Tia bought single tickets until she realized she could save money buying the whole season. Last year, Donovan was a Straz Center Broadway season ticket holder. With the aid of Straz ushers, Tia helped the couples sitting around Donovan who also had season tickets understand that he had autism, which meant that he may react differently to the action onstage. The couples fell in love with Donovan’s excitement about live theater. At the end of the season, one couple gave him a gift of a chocolate gold medal, a tribute to his status as a New Jersey gold medalist in gymnastics for the Special Olympics.

The Straz staff has been phenomenal,” Tia says. “When I explain that I don’t have a ticket but need to get Donovan acclimated before the show, the staff has a phenomenal reaction. They know I’ll be right outside in the lobby if they need me. We all have a wonderful communication level.”

Part of the Straz Center’s mission is to make sure that guests of all abilities get the services they need. We provide compassionate assistance for mothers like Tia, plus we offer so much more including wheelchair accessible seating, assisted listening systems, American Sign Language interpreted performances for the first Thursday night of each Broadway show and more.

We termed this part of our mission “Straz Access” to give you peace of mind that you can enjoy live performing arts with our full support to provide accessibility for you and your family.

To learn more about The Straz and Straz Access, visit us at strazcenter.org and click our “Accessibility” link.