Anything Goes: Our daughter called twice today with scheduling questions. She likes to line up her events, which this week include attending theater on Wednesday to see “Anything Goes”, the 1930’s Cole Porter musical romance. The tickets are a combined graduation and upcoming birthday gift from her aunt. Our daughter loves the show’s leading lady, Sutton Foster, a Broadway musical superstar whom we have seen before, most happily in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. What she doesn’t recall is that we saw this show at our high school many years ago. “Anything Goes” is an apt description for the experience of venturing into public settings where the protocol is to sit quietly enough in one’s seat…not an easy task for a special needs child, teen or even young adult.
Local Forgiveness: I cultivated her interest in theater in a safe environment, the local schools’ auditoriums, often a more forgiving atmosphere for special needs behavior. Local forgiveness, I recognized early, gave me the courage to bring our daughter into settings where her behavior, which is still somewhat disruptive for the tight restrictions of theaters, was more tolerated. Never having acquired the art of whispering, our daughter’s voice can distract folks seated nearby and create embarrassing moments for me even to this day. Her marvelous curiosity, a great asset, can become a bit of a liability when watching a movie or a show, which is why I prefer to take her to the large chain movie houses rather than the small art theaters. Our daughter has questions, questions and more questions, though I prepare her as best I can (and now she prepares herself online) for the storyline and often even the music, to serve as a preventative measure, but alas not a surefire safeguard. Inspired by whatever the scene unveils, interrogatories are triggered and often hoots of laughter, usually in my ear, which still knock your socks off (at least my socks). And then the looks and the shushes, the disapproving brows and occasionally, “we are trying to hear the show” from outraged neighbors. Mortifying? Yes.
Mama Mia & Priscilla, Queen of The Desert: Performances that encourage audience howls, sing-alongs and dancing in the aisle work best. We are bouncy girls who like to stand up and clap along or belt out some simple lyric with the rest of the madcap audience, though my daughter is terrified if cast members come into the audience near to her. (She fears they will pull her into their act.) Mama Mia and Priscilla are great for the wildly enthusiastic audience. You gotta have heart, which these audiences have, to enjoy the interactive unbridled enthusiasm that these shows encourage. And that same “heart” works for the special needs gal seated next to me.
Wicked, South Pacific & The Drowsy Chaperone: Our daughter is an amateur theater critic. She knows a good show from a bad one and can articulate her reasons. Wicked and South Pacific are amongst her favorites, both for song, talent, humor and romance (especially with the guy in drag wearing the coconut bra). The Drowsy Chaperone “stunk”, because the lead, again Sutton Foster, (the sole reason we bought tickets for the show) was out that day and the understudy stank, which sunk the show, though our daughter and I got a bunch of giggles from Mrs. Tottendale’s dementia sweetened memories of childhood, sung along with her amiable butler, Underling.
The Courage to Expose: One of the watchwords of my special parenting faith was to get our daughter out of the house and expose her to the world of culture, art, family, peers, sports, her community, whatever, no matter the cringing humiliating moments to me and, sadly, our son and her father. There were many such moments, and even now it isn’t easy watching a movie or a show with a young lady who doesn’t have the skill to modulate her voice, cannot whisper or grasp the need, or the self-control required, to delay her questions until the show ends. Because we forced ourselves to endure the mortifications (and the hilarity and fun that sharing events with our daughter offers as well), this young gal has an amazing ear and eye for quality and more importantly, a continuous source of stimulation for herself as well as a social bridge to the so-called “normal” world with whom she can banter about stars, shows, songs and scenes. One of our friend’s is a dramatic actor and when discussing theater with our daughter, is quite clear, “She has great taste.” Anything Goes in The Special Needs World, that’s for sure and the survival rests in “going with it.”
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011