When I'd finished reading, I felt let down. I couldn't put my finger on why, but I didn't feel inspired any more. The article was very long and detailed, well-written, had good photos of the children, and ended nicely. But still....
It wasn't until later this afternoon I realized why. After dropping off lovely lady at her girls group, I chatted with the mothers of lovely lady's two friends who'd also been in the play, and found that they'd felt the same way-- somehow disappointed but unable to really express why. Driving home, it dawned on me that we hadn't seen our daughters, our lovely, joyful, beautiful daughters in the article. The reporter, a very nice and gentle man, kind and well-meaning, had walked in expecting to see disabled kids, and that's what he saw. So that's what he wrote. Our children disappeared behind their labels and behaviors. We got to read about the difficulties and the behaviors and the tears instead of how the kids persevered and practiced anyway. Was the play a challenge? You bet. Darn tootin' it was, just ask the exhausted director and the parents who had to help their kids hold it together during and after play practice. My lovely lady had an utter sobbing meltdown over changing her clothes after the last dress rehearsal.
Because the play went well, Mr. Keefer wrote that they "played above their game." But they didn't. They really didn't. This was no miracle. The cast of The Mitten responded to the audience, to the fact that it was the real thing, to the energy in the theater...just like the cast of any play anywhere. It was their moment to shine, and they knew it, so they shone. Because they are children first and foremost. Great kids. Funny kids. Charming kids. Who happen to have autism.
I did like this part, near the very end (the lecture happened during the run-through, not during the actual performance):
The show was sweet and funny. But was it art? This was, after all, nothing but a half-hour grade school performance. People like to gush about "risky" art, even when the risks are utterly conventional. This was a true theater of risk. No one involved had a clue what would happen on Sunday afternoon, from the kids and their parents to the director. "The Mitten," in that sense, was a grand piece of conceptual artistry, raising questions of identity and difference without a moment of preachiness. When Annie stormed off stage to lecture that hapless mom, she broke the fourth wall of theater more honestly than any postmodernist playwright ever has. We are all part of the show, the moment said, no matter how much we might prefer to sit back and watch.
~Bob Keefer, “Opening Act”, The Register Guard, February 22, 2007.
I liked the online slide show better. It's got lots of smiles and fun pictures. There's an absolutely stunning picture of my lovely bunny near the end, holding her roses. I'll try to link it here, but it may not work. We'll see.