Saturday, April 12, 2008

Down the rabbit hole

Wonderland was Wonderful.

Anything can happen, and often does, we were reminded before the performance. As I sat there in the audience, I knew that the last dress rehearsal, less than a week ago, was reportedly the very first rehearsal in which no one had a meltdown. The unique nature of the cast of this play means that we will have to be comfortable rolling with the flow.

The play went off without a hitch. The actors remembered most of their lines, the costumes were wonderfully creative, the story was charming. Lovely lady was glowing afterward. I was...am...so proud of her. Proud of all of the actors, and of their teachers-facilitators-directors-helpers. The production was a challenging one, expectations were set pretty high, and they outshone themselves once again.

Not only did the troupe perform beautifully, they performed beautifully the very first time they'd performed the play in front of an audience, the first time ever on a stage for some. Imagine for a moment that you are a young person with a disability that can make crowds seem overwhelming, or sounds seem too loud, or lights too bright. New situations or people can be frightening. Imagine trying to perform in front of a crowd of people, rustling and whispering and shifting and coughing and even crying. Or imagine just trying to sit in a crowd in a strange place in the dark. Many of the audience members were on the autism spectrum too. One child in the audience had a crying meltdown. Another young person wanted to go home, wanted to leave now.

Here's where the cast really shone: They kept right on going. Not a hiccup. Like actors. Not "actors with autism". Actors on stage, rising to the challenge of performing in front of a live audience.

It's important to involve our children with disabilities in projects that allow them to shine and to stretch and to achieve. Well, all of our children, really, no matter what their abilities. Not just for their sakes, but for our own. Projects like this one serve as a reminder: When we set the bar high for our children, no matter what their needs, and we provide them with the support they need to achieve their goals, they can be successful. That's what being a parent, or a teacher, or a facilitator, or a friend is all about.

The highlight for me: Seeing my lovely White Rabbit's face as she came out of the theater.

She tried theater camp two years ago. She'd performed in her school play and wanted to try more. The camp was too much for her. The instructors were very kind, but their focus was teaching children performance, and the activity and noise and pace were overwhelming for lovely lady. She had a hard time learning the dance moves. She didn't understand the directions for some of the acting exercises. She didn't get the part she wanted. And the final blow, she hated the t-shirt she had to wear for the final performance-- she felt self-conscious and it showed.

When we found out last year that Bridgeway House was starting a theater group, she jumped at the chance. (You can read about last year's performance here.) And she loved every minute.

So, Wonderland went off without a hitch, and it was lovely. The cherry on top of the cake was the cast party afterward. Children with autism have difficulties with social behaviors, it's a part of the disability. Making friends and keeping them can be a challenge. Rehearsing weekly, working toward a goal, stretching limits and boundaries together--that's a great way to form friendships and make meaningful connections with other people. It was delightful watching the children play and talk and giggle together.

Getting the opportunity to participate in a production that allows lovely lady to blossom at her own pace, gives her a chance to shine and to feel successful.....priceless. Forming friendships and connecting.....perfect.

Life is good.
---------------------------------------
Lovely lady's bio from the program:
Hannah is quiet and shy but energetic. She loves singing and dancing and acting. It is her dream to be famous.

1 comment:

Julie R said...

Cat-what a wonderful completely lovely evening. I'm SO happy that it went so well! Congrats to Hannah! She IS famous after all this!!! Tell her people all over the globe are reading about her wonderful performance! Julie