A Playhouse for Everyone

The Playhouse is for everyone, and we recognize that some of our patrons may have special needs. We offer several services to these patrons including:

  • Infrared sound enhancement system in the Marx Theatre and a Hearing Loop System in the Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre
  • Large print programs
  • Wheelchair accessibility to both theatres and all public areas
  • Audio described and signed performances (listed below)

We also have a Sensory-Friendly Performance of First Financial Bank presents A Christmas Carol. For details, visit our student matinees page.


Funding for this program is provided by: The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation and Bartlett Wealth Management.



Accessibility Programs


The Playhouse was the first theatre in Ohio to offer regularly scheduled audio description for the visually impaired. Trained volunteers describe the visual elements of the production via a closed-circuit receiver that is approximately the size of a deck of cards and fits in a jacket pocket or on the lap. A small earpiece fits into one ear, allowing patrons to hear dialogue, music and other sound effects. The description is timed to avoid interfering with dialogue. Before the show and during intermission, show and actor information are shared.

This service is free and generally is offered on the third Saturday of each production in the Marx Theatre. A receiver, and instruction in its use, can be found at the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation patron services booth in the Rosenthal Plaza.

2019-20 Audio-Described Performances
Once on This Island  Saturday, Sept. 28, at 4 p.m.
Moe & Jack Rouse and Randolph Wadsworth present The Lifespan of a Fact Saturday, Nov. 9, at 4 p.m.
First Financial Bank presents A Christmas Carol  Saturday, Dec. 7, at 2 p.m.
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story — Saturday, Feb. 8, at 4 p.m.
Leading Ladies presents Destiny of Desire — Saturday, March 21, at 4 p.m.
Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express  Saturday, May 2, at 4 p.m.

Subscriptions for the audio-described series are also available.

Each Marx Theatre production is generally signed on the third Sunday of the show's run. Funding for this program is made possible by Bartlett & Co.

2019-20 Signed Performances

Once on This Island  Sunday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m.
Moe & Jack Rouse and Randolph Wadsworth present The Lifespan of a Fact — Sunday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m.
First Financial Bank presents A Christmas Carol — Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2 p.m.
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story — 
Sunday, Feb. 9, at 2 p.m.
Leading Ladies presentsDestiny of Desire  Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m.
Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express —  Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m.

Subscriptions for the signed performance series are also available.

The interpreter stands toward the bottom of isle 5. If you select a seat in isle 2 or 3, you can face both the interpreter and the stage at the same time.

The volume of any performance in the Marx Theatre can be raised thanks to Telex infrared assisted listening systems. This service is free and uses the same technology used for audio description in the Marx Theatre. Receivers can be picked up in the Marx lobby prior to curtain.

We are excited to share that the Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre now has a Hearing Loop System! This system sends the production’s audio from an overhead microphone on stage (or from a performer’s microphone) directly into a hearing aid or cochlear implant. The system strives to provide a clearer, cleaner sound and does not require a headset, as it works with the T-Coil or Telecoil that many hearing aids come equipped with. A T-Coil is a tiny wireless receiver inside many hearing aids and is accessible via the programming button or switch on your aid. If you have never used your T-Coil, it is recommended that you consult your audiologist to confirm it has been activated and to learn how to access it. If you cannot access your T-Coil or do not have hearing aids, please ask one of our House Managers for a Loop Receiver which you can use to receive the system at the performance.

We are dedicated to providing the best service possible to our audience members. If you need further help, we would be happy to speak with your audiologist and assist in any way we can.

Parking for those with disabilities is located in front of the main entrance, as well as in the Playhouse parking garage. Parking for persons with disabilities is limited and must be reserved and paid for in advance. All vehicles using these spaces must display a valid disability placard. Wheelchair seating in the theatres is subject to availability and should be requested at the time of ticket reservation.
Large print programs are available upon request from ushers in both theatres.
The Playhouse is fully equipped to accommodate patrons with mobility impairments in both theatres. A curbside drop-off area offers direct access to the street level Box Office, lobby and elevator to the theatre level.

More than Entertainment: A Look at the Playhouse's Sensory-Friendly Student Matinee

Dec 19, 2018, 12:41 PM by Natalie Hulla
To open doors for these students and to provide better accessibility, the Playhouse hosts a special, sensory-friendly student matinee performance of A Christmas Carol each season.
Here at the Playhouse, we are committed to ensuring that all students in Greater Cincinnati have access to the arts. However, students who have sensory challenges or are on the autism spectrum often have trouble functioning within the constraints of a traditional performance environment. Theatrical productions in particular contain technical and physical elements that can be disorienting for those with certain sensitivities. These obstacles make it uniquely difficult for students and their families to enjoy live theatre together.

To open doors for these students and to provide better accessibility, the Playhouse hosts a special, sensory-friendly student matinee performance of A Christmas Carol each season. We held our third annual sensory-friendly performance on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, and welcomed a total of 159 students and 61 chaperones to experience this beloved holiday classic on the Marx stage.

Students and chaperones from the Bobbie B. Fairfax School at the 2018 sensory-friendly student matinee of A Christmas Carol.

“Theatre is for everyone and our space is for everyone,” says Director of Education and Community Engagement Daunielle Rasmussen, who has worked closely with Managing Director Buzz Ward and Artistic Director Blake Robison to provide further means of access for students. “We make it safe for you to be here emotionally, and it’s the least we can do to build a bridge to these communities.”

For the sensory-friendly performance of A Christmas Carol, the Playhouse removes sensory challenges and provides various accommodations to address students’ needs. Technical adjustments in the production include the following:

• Keeping the theatre’s house lights at 30 percent (as opposed to completely off) throughout the show
• Removing some theatrical elements onstage like fog, haze and certain kinds of lighting
• Lowering the sound on more intense production sequences
• Replacing certain props or costume pieces with items that are less intense (like substituting character Jacob Marley’s metal chains with plastic chains so that they make less noise)
• Placing a staff member close to the stage so that they can provide visual warnings when a bright light or loud moment is approaching in the show.

Additionally, our staff makes the following accommodations offstage:

• Allowing patrons to bring food and drinks inside the theatre to suit specific dietary needs
• Providing small, handheld “fidget” items that are intended to relieve tension and anxiety associated with sensory triggers
• Providing sunglasses and noise-reducing headphones to prevent over-stimulation
• Placing additional signage around the building that provides image-based directions of exits/entrances, pathways and restrooms
• Designating areas of the lobby and plaza as quiet rooms and rest areas for students who need to take a break from the performance
• Keeping the upper level of the theatre empty so that students and chaperones have the flexibility to move there if they require more physical space for themselves during the performance


A Christmas Carol
stage manager Andrea L. Shell, who is in her 19th season at the Playhouse, says initial preparation for the sensory-friendly performance began three years ago when she met with the education staff and discussed how they could incorporate adjustments. Now in their third year of the sensory-friendly performance, the production crew needs only to remind themselves of the adjustments and make sure that the cast members (both new and returning) understand how the performance may be slightly different.

“When we initially present the opportunity of doing this show to the cast and crew, we present it as that — an opportunity,” says Shell, who adds that this performance has become her favorite of the season. “This is something really special of which we get to be a part. And we want to give our patrons at this performance a show that’s as close to the standard version as possible.”

Photo of Andrea L. Shell on the set of A Christmas Carol by Hailey Bollinger, as seen in CityBeat.

Their initial conversation also included the desire to make the production accessible without skewing the integrity of the story.

“Our goal is to keep the art as close to what it is for our usual performance as we can,” says Rasmussen. “I believe — as do Blake and Buzz — that these students have the right to experience art at the highest level. But if there are a few things that inhibit their ability to experience the show because it grates against their sensory experience, we can adjust that.”

Shell and her team are equally passionate about this initiative.

“I feel lucky to have been at the helm for all three years that we’ve been doing the sensory-friendly performance. The honesty and joy with which this audience responds is incredibly special and pure,” says Shell. “We are sharing an important story of hope and compassion and shared humanity, and I’m very thankful that this performance has afforded us the opportunity to share it with new friends and hopefully new theatre lovers.”


Ensuring that theatrical productions are more inclusive for individuals who have sensory needs reflects a growing shift in theatre at large. The Theatre Development Fund — a non-profit organization based in New York City that provides resources, education and programming for theatres across the country — has been facilitating sensory-friendly Broadway shows since 2011 and provides instructional resources for theatres to become more accessible. SENSE Theatre Research Program, located at Vanderbilt University, is an intervention research program that works directly with students ages 10 to 16 who are on the autism spectrum. By using theatrical and performance techniques, they hope to improve the social and emotional functioning of the children they work with in the program.

Students and chaperones from the Bobbie B. Fairfax School at the 2018 sensory-friendly student matinee of A Christmas Carol.

Locally, the Playhouse has worked closely with Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Art Museum in sharing resources. Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati in particular has provided consultation to the Playhouse in facilitating accessibility; former Director of Education Ben Raanan provided in-depth, hands-on training for Playhouse staff and played a key role in the implementation of best practices and procedures. Ensemble Theatre has become a leading arts expert in teaching the Hunter Heartbeat Methodology — an educational technique that uses Shakespeare’s use of language to express emotion through sensory games and activities for children on the autism spectrum.

The Playhouse receives special funding from The Daniel and Susan Pfau Foundation; their generosity underwrites the theatre’s sensory-friendly performance and ensures that we can carry out important inclusion initiatives past the holiday season. Funds will also assist in expanding accessibility for summer camp programs, allowing the Playhouse to hire specially trained counselors to work with children who have cognitive challenges and to hire trainers who will teach the education staff how to work with children who have unique needs.

The Playhouse Education team (Nick Tsangaris, Valerie Perez, Carolyn Guido Clifford, Daunielle Rasmussen and Craig Branch) together in front of the Marx Theatre, where the Sensory-Friendly Student Matinee of A Christmas Carol is held each season.

“It’s easy to say that theatre is just entertainment. But really, it’s so much more than that,” says Rasmussen. “We are the mirror that reflects society. So, if we start to say, ‘you’re welcome here’ to the best of our ability, that sets a precedent.”

For more information on the Playhouse’s accessibility and inclusion initiatives, visit our Accessibility page, and for information on how you can support these efforts, visit our Donate page.

Remaining 2019-20 Performances

Bruce Cromer and Nick Rose in A Christmas Carol; Photo by Mikki Schaffner. Promotional photos by Tony Arrasmith/Arrasmith & Associates. The cast of A Christmas Carol; Photo by Mikki Schaffner.