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Cut & Paste: Actor helps make theater friendlier for those with sensory issues — including herself

Jen Kerner plays a Bird Girl in Christ Memorial's 2016 production of Seussical.
Cindy Tiefenbrunn

St. Louis actor Jen Kerner has played dozens of characters, but in recent years she’s taken on a new role: making the theater experience enjoyable for people who are overwhelmed by loud sounds and bright lights that are part of the typical theatrical experience.

Kerner works in job placement for people with developmental disabilities who often have sensory issues. Four years ago, she began to pay more attention to her own sensitivities during rehearsals for “The Music Man," in which the orchestra seemed noisy and abrasive. Shortly thereafter, a doctor diagnosed her with autism.

In our latest Cut & Paste podcast, we talk with Kerner about her struggles and her advocacy, in two upcoming sensory-friendly productions.

On Sunday, Next Generation Theater Company presents an adaptation of “Newsies" at the Florissant Civic Center, and on Sept. 20, Christ Memorial Luther Church will hold a sensory-friendly presentation of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Here’sa list of sensory-friendly summer experiences for children, from art-making to movies to playgrounds.

Look for new Cut & Paste (#cutpastestl) podcastsevery few weeks on our website. You can also find all previous podcasts focusing on a diverse collection of visual and performing artists, and subscribe to Cut & Paste through this link.

The podcast is sponsored by JEMA Architects, Planners and Designers.

Follow Nancy and Jeremy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL, @JeremyDGoodwin

Please help St. Louis Public Radio find creative people to feature on Cut & Paste. Tell us which artists and cultural drivers deserve a closer look.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.
Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.