Elizabeth didn’t get a role in the play, and I’m crushed. She had auditioned for the Children’s Theater musical of “Cinderella“, and I was so excited to see how strong she was- how her issues that we work on, liked loudness and lack of awareness of others’ opinions, were strengths in a theater context. She had a very clear, loud, dramatic persona on stage- but alas, no singing or dancing ability. Even this Proud Mama can admit that she clumped, she got lost and she had NO sense of rhythm. As someone who is passionately moved by music, was once a “woo woo” girl at the back of a band, and always has a soundtrack in my head, it hurts my heart to see my girl not “hear” the music. But she sure can talk, dramatize, and project! I was hoping that such strengths would be recognized and developed.
In our summer theater, everyone gets a part. Over 100 children auditioned, which meant that they broke into two casts. This cast of “Cinderella” has 51 people. Elizabeth is “Villager #3” in a scene that the director is writing where 30 villagers sing a song at the beginning and the end of the play. I wasn’t expecting Cinderella, but I WAS hoping that she could be a mouse or a bird- someone with a line to deliver and a character to play. Elizabeth originally wanted Cinderella- as who doesn’t?- but we talked her into a more reasonable part expectation.
And the thing that hurts is that one of the mice roles was given to a little girl who was too scared to even get on stage during auditions. She could dance, and she was very pretty, but clearly so scared that she literally clung to her mother and refused to get up on stage unless her older sister was dancing next to her. She never could speak or read any lines. And she and her sister are both cast as mice. At the audition, I had great sympathy for the mother and was pleased that the theater would be so accommodating to someone who clearly had such anxiety issues. But when Elizabeth came back to me all dragging arms and downcast eyes and quietly whispered with a tremble in her voice “How come she got a mouse part and I didn’t?” (and when Elizabeth is quiet, she is intensely feeling something), I had a hard time explaining that life isn’t fair and sometimes mice roles are given to other children who need them more than she did.
And the stage mother in me wanted to march right up there and demand that MY daughter be given a mouse role!!
Elizabeth sat through the first read-through right after parts were assigned because I wanted her to feel the magic of the theater, the energy that is produced when a bunch of creative, smart, funny people get together and create an alternate existence. The teenagers who are to play the main parts are fantastic- able to take on accents, deliver punch lines and have a strong sense of timing and delivery. Fantastic role models! If Elizabeth felt the magic, we might stay…
For you see, we have summer choices… my mother is a widow and I’m an only child with a month of time on my hands. The temptation to go to New Mexico is strong. I have a Teacher’s Guide to Children with High Functioning Autism book to write and there are lots of things to do in Santa Fe as well- hiking and rafting and fishing and art and Mesa Verde and Taos and… but if Elizabeth had wanted to do this- her only chance at theater during the year, we would have stayed the summer and squeezed in a visit.
At the end of the night, as we left, Elizabeth’s hand crept into mine. “What do you think, honey?” I asked her. “Emily (BFF) and Audrey (friend across the street) are Villagers, too. Do you want to do this, or do you want to go and seee Mamamum?”
“I want to go rafting!” Elizabeth said emphatically. “And Mamamum is lonely.”
Part of me is so sad- that her gifts were not recognized and she didn’t feel the magic of the theater. I’m also sad that the lure of movement is more than the lure of creating something with friends. But I love that she’s still connected to us, her family, and that she’s still 9 years old and able to shake off failure. At times, her autism protects her from being eaten up with disappointment by allowing her to refocus on something else. I was more visibly crushed than she was…
But if you’re in Taos this July, look for us! She’ll be the only Villager #3 with a happy grandmother, screaming with joy as she rides the raft down the river.