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Earlier this month, Samantha Torres and her developmentally disabled 5-year-old daughter attended a performance of Beauty and the Beast at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island. The little girl was having a wonderful time and expressing happiness over the show, but she never got to see the ending -- because Torres and her daughter were asked to leave the theater.
As much as I emphasize with this mom and wish I could be on her side for this incident, I can't. The theater's employees may have blundered their approach to Torres, but they had every right to remove the family mid-performance.
Torres says her daughter Nadia, who suffers from a chromosome abnormality and can't speak, was making noises to indicate her happiness during the Disney musical. Nadia was "squealing, giggling, and humming" when, according to Torres, ushers kicked her entire party (which included Torres' other child and a nurse) out of the theater:
They did not ask me to leave. They told me I had to leave.
Theater marketing director P.J. Prokop denies this, saying that when the little girl began distracting other audience members, the group was offered different seats. He added,
It is the theater's responsibility to try and ensure that everyone can hear and have a good time.
Torres claims she was never given the chance to relocate and that they were already sitting near the rear of the 3,100-seat theater. She also said the only people bothered by Nadia were the ushers.
It's quite the he-said/she-said conundrum, and who knows what really happened. But here's my feeling: if the little girl was distracting other people, that's a problem. It doesn't matter what the reason is. I feel terrible for the mom who must have felt discriminated against, but the theater employees had every right to mitigate the situation. I hope they truly did start by attempting to find a solution that let the girl stay, but even if they simply asked the family to leave, that's their job.
We'd expect an usher to do something if an audience member was being a distraction. Personally, I would never complain about the noise someone was making if I could tell they couldn't help it -- and honestly, this was Beauty and the Beast, so I imagine that there were plenty of kids in attendance who weren't exactly sitting immobilized and silent the whole time. Still, the ushers were in the awkward position of having to deal with the noise, and I really doubt they'd have gone to the trouble of taking action if it was true that the girl wasn't bothering anyone.
The good news about this unpleasant incident is that there's a silver lining for the mom: Torres plans to take up the theater on an offer to conduct sensitivity training for ushers, and she's also working with the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council to develop a guide on how entertainment venues can prepare for people with disabilities.
I think it's going to have a happy ending for a lot of people.
What do you think about this story? Do you think the theater went too far, or did they do the right thing?
Image via Saipal/Flickr